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Posted on Aug 14, 2012 Print this Article

"Gender-Diverse" Army Ranger School? - Part II

Empirical  Evidence Discredits Amazon Myths

Note:  More information on this topic is available in Part I of this article, and in the Essential Resources section of this Website.

Whenever the question of women in the infantry comes up, well-meaning observers often comment that such assignments should be allowed (actually, ordered) if women can meet the same  physical standards as men.  

This fails to recognize comprehensive tests and reports, produced over the past 30 years, which have compared the physical capabilities of men and women in military training.  All of these empirical studies can be summarized in a single sentence:  "In direct ground combat, women do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive."

Height, weight, aerobic capacity, and hormone differences that affect muscle growth and bone strength all contribute to greater numbers of injuries when women are required to participate in tough military training designed for men.  The same factors would disadvantage them in combat operations, expose their colleagues to even great risks, and thereby jeopardize land combat missions.

These common-sense realities are recognized in world-class athletic competitions, such as the quadrennial Olympics.  Female athletes who are at the peak of physical fitness still are not expected to compete for medals against men.  Nor do they play on football teams that engage in non-lethal combat, which is far less demanding than lethal land combat during a war. 

Abundant Empirical Evidence Based on Experience, not Theory

William J. Gregor, PhD, Professor of Social Sciences at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, KS, has compiled this two-page Information Paper and partial list of authoritative studies documenting physical differences between men and women, and reasons why those differences continue even with special training:

Additional information on physiology is provided in this paper, which Dr. Gregor presented at the 2011 International Biennial Conference of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society:

In his detailed paper Dr. Gregor wrote, "The data clearly reveals a very large gap between the physical strength, aerobic capacity, and size of Army men and women. Training men and women correctly improves the performance of both groups but it also widens the gap in performance." (p. 29)

Some observers mistakenly believe that special training can overcome physical differences between men and women in close combat.  On the contrary, the November 1997 US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine report, often called the Natick Study, did not support that theory or meet expectations of its sponsors:

Infantry and Injuries: No Gender-Norming on the Battlefield

Military leaders in several countries, particularly the United States and Britain, have conducted many studies comparing the physical capabilities of male and female trainees.  None of them support speculation that average women might achieve "equality" in tough Ranger or infantry training, much less in actual combat operations. 

The British Army found it necessary to discontinue an experiment with "gender-free" training in 1998.   After 18 months of escalating injuries, the Army returned to "gender-fair" requirements allowing for physiological differences, due to debilitating injuries among women:

The most relevant test results clearly show that the only way to achieve "equality" for women in tough training is to use weighted gender-normed scoring systems that measure "equal effort," not equal results.  Another way is to make excuses for dropping some of the more demanding exercises while pretending that nothing has changed.

This process of redefining or lowering standards causes morale problems and resentment of "double standards involving women" or DSIW, for short.  Men often blame their female colleagues for DSIW, even though they are not to blame.  Policy makers, both military and civilian, should be held accountable for the consequences of DSIW, but they seldom are. 

"Equal Treatment" Unfair to Women

Rear Adm. Hugh P. Scott, MC, USN (Ret.), an expert in undersea medicine who has done extensive research on medical issues facing women in the military, expressed his concerns about the physical and physiological differences between men and women in a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon:

In his letter Dr. Scott praised women in the military for repeatedly demonstrating great courage, determination and skill in supporting combat missions.  He cautioned, however, that the assignment  of women to any unit that is required to seek out, close with, and kill the enemy by close combat would be "inappropriate," due to "the naturally occurring, unalterable anatomical and physiological differences in physical strength and endurance that exist between males and females."

Dr. Scott continued,

"While men and women have an equal number of muscles and muscle fibers, the strength difference relates exclusively to muscle size that is determined by testosterone levels. Because women have less testosterone than men, they have smaller muscle fibers that result in the development of small-size muscles; in effect, women have less muscle to activate. That also is the reason why women develop less muscle when training with weights and exercising."

The November 1992 Report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces chronicled scores of reasons why women should not be placed in close combat, most of which are still valid today.

In this article, a Marine Captain with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan draws upon her own experience to make arguments similar to those of Dr. Scott.  In a close combat environment, the physical demands and medical penalties are more severe for women than men:

Columnist Linda Chavez has also highlighted the disproportionate dangers for women who attempt to compete in rough contact sports, even against other women:

Feminist/diversity advocates cannot make a convincing case for changing the culture of infantry and Ranger training, which is beyond the capabilities of more than 99% of women.  Military assignment policies must recognize the capabilities of average men and women, not rare exceptions.  Young women like Marine Capt. Katie Petronio should not have to sacrifice their physical capability to have children, just to achieve "diversity metrics" goals for a small number of  high-ranking female officers. 

No Need to "Honor" Women by Forcing Them Into Close Combat

The bravery of our military women serving in the Middle East since the 9/11  attacks on America is not in question.  Unprecedented numbers of uniformed women have been killed in AfghanistanIraq, and Kuwait since September 11, 2001, but that sad reality does not make the case for eliminating all of women's combat exemptions:

Americans are proud of our women in uniform, and the nation appreciates their selfless sacrifice.  They have done everything asked of them, but often the military asks too much. 

Deployed servicewomen have been constantly "In Harm's Way," sometimes performing dangerous missions that men cannot do, interacting with civilian women and children as members of Female Engagement Teams (FETs), also called Cultural Support Teams.

Dr. Gregor has noted, however, that recent experience in Middle East war zones prove very little about women's physical readiness for direct ground combat, which involves deliberate offensive action against the enemy.  Even now, women are not given the heavier work or asked to carry heavy loads because commanders do not want to put them and others at greater risk.  The average infantry soldier often carries on his back loads of 100 pounds or more, marching long distances in all weather, prior to lethal engagements with the enemy.

"Assigning women to direct combat units differs from the current situation because the evidence indicates that women cannot be trained to achieve the average aerobic capacity of their male comrades and they do not have the stature to bear the heavy combat loads...Unfortunately, shifting her load to other squad members would serve to increase the load of the already burdened squad."  (p. 28) 

Political Pressures

Expectations that women will be held to the same standards as men fail to recognize that feminists and pressure groups, led by the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), are the first to complain if high physical standards are perceived as "barriers" to women's achievements.  When complaints occur, the Defense Department capitulates − every time.  They seem to forget that close combat is not fair, equal, or even civilized.  To state the obvious, the military is not just another equal opportunity employer. 

The constantly-repeated observation that "there are no front lines" has become a thoughtless cliche.  When Baghdad was liberated in 2003, and in the harsh environment of Afghanistan to this day, infantry battalions have engaged in close combat operations that are as violent and physically demanding as anything experienced in previous wars. [1]

The question of whether women should be assigned to direct ground combat units such as the infantry should be examined objectively and with reference to empirical evidence that is based on actual experience, not theory.

Military "Diversity" Based on Misplaced Priorities

Political pressures to assign female soldiers and Marines to direct ground combat battalions are a direct result of misguided recommendations of the 2011 Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) Report.  The MLDC Report, cited by Pentagon officials as the primary moving force behind proposed policy changes affecting women, provides no proof that women can be equals of men in close combat.  The stated goal of the ill-advised report is to advance "diversity" in promotions of female officers to high rank. 

Prof. Kingsley R. Browne of Wayne State University Law School has written an insightful analysis of the MLDC Report's recommendations for women in land combat: 

Among other things, the MLDC report MLDC relied upon a deeply-flawed 1997 RAND report in formulating its recommendations for regulations affecting military women.  A comparison of a more honest draft edition of the RAND Report and the heavily-redacted final version revealed facts that remain significant to this day:

The MLDC report also failed to address scores of issues involving personal misconduct, non-deployability, pregnancy, and fraternization problems that have caused enormous disruption in  units that are supposed to be cohesive and ready for deployment at all times.

In 1992 the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces adopted an over-arching statement of principle: "Equal opportunity is important, but if there is a conflict between EO and the needs of the military, the needs of the military must come first." 

In contrast, today's Pentagon has endorsed "diversity" as the Pentagon's primary goal, while insincerely claiming that military necessity also matters.  The entire exercise is on a collision course with reality.  Lives should not be put at needless risk just to prove questionable theories or to satisfy "diversity metrics" advancing career advancement for a few.

* * * * * * *

For more information on this subject, see Army Targets Ranger School for Gender-Based "Diversity" - Part I, and historic background articles posted in the Essential Resources section of this website.

[1]  For a first-hand account of real-life battalion-level combat operations in Afghanistan, read Outlaw Platoon: Heroes, Renegades, Infidels, and the Brotherhood of War in Afghanistan, by Sean Parnell.  In May 2006 Army Ranger Parnell commanded an elite 40-man infantry platoon that encountered deadly ambushes and repeated attacks by opposition enemy forces using professional infantry tactics.  Vivid passages in the book thoroughly discredit the notion that infantry combat in Afghanistan only involves random improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. 


Posted on Aug 14, 2012 Print this Article