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Women in Combat:

I'm delighted to say that this week, and then the week after next, we'll have guest-bloggers blogging about women in combat.

The first, who starts today, will be Prof. Kingsley Browne of Wayne State University Law School, who is the author of the just-released Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence that Women Shouldn't Fight the Nation's Wars. The second, scheduled for the week of Dec. 17, will be Capt. (& Prof.) Rosemary Mariner of the University of Tennessee's Center for the Study of War & Society; Prof. Mariner will be arguing in favor of allowing women in combat. I much look forward to what should be a thoughtful, enlightening, and important discussion.

rlb:
One out of ten women at sea in the navy has to be evacuated from their ship for pregnancy, per year.

Do we have similar numbers for female personnel in Iraq?
12.3.2007 7:20am
Parker Smith (mail) (www):
Commanding a combat unit is about the most difficult task I can imagine - the stakes are literally life and death, in situations where people are trying hard to kill you.

And having co-ed combat units makes this easier? Only if you engage in heavy duty denial and SERIOUS magical thinking.
12.3.2007 8:03am
Temp Guest (mail):
The biography of Captain Mariner makes much of the fact that the Navy did (does??) not include women in its programs involving combat jets landing and taking off from carriers. Some one correct me if I'm wrong, but it is my understanding that the Navy's one experiment in that direction involved the crash death of a female pilot (and the loss of the very expensive jet she was flying) during a carrier landing.

There is an enormous innate sexual disparity in certain innate skills (e.g., those involving the ability to figure out intersections in space and time of vector accelerated objects). These disparities are large and well-researched enough to suggest that only discrimination against extremely well-qualified men would allow even deficiently qualified women to hold any positions requiring these skills.

Similarly, well-researched and confirmed innate sexual differences in aggressiveness, physical strength, and physical/emotional endurance suggest that all available combat positions are likely to be filled by well-qualified men unless sexual discriminatiuon requires that some of these positions be given to less-qualified women.

Experience over the past two decades has demonstrated that perhaps the only institution in our society that is adequately performing its allotted roles is the military. Liberals apparently are sufficiently unabashed at all the damage their past social experiments have caused society, that they are anxious to move on and destroy our military also.
12.3.2007 8:34am
Sean M:
Of course, Temp Guest, even if all your facts are true (which I do not presume to know), that assumes there is enough well-qualified men that /want/ to join the military and fill those positions.
12.3.2007 8:48am
Sk (mail):
I wish you luck, but at this point, I'm skeptical.

There are a few topics that academics (well, society in general) just doesn't do well. Race is one of them. Gender equality issues is another. Expect alot of talking past each other, by both sides. Expect alot of cynical, passioned, snark (and very little well-thought, reasoned interaction), by commenters. I'd love to be proven wrong-I suppose we'll soon find out.

Sk
12.3.2007 9:07am
rlb:
I found this claim in one of the linked articles amusing:
The logic over the years was that women were not strong enough to fly "big" airplanes. It was not enough that women had been flying since the beginning of aviation, or that they flew every combat airplane of World War II, including the B-29 bomber. The Navy also forgot that the Russians had three squadrons of women (called "Night Witches") who flew combat in World War II.


I know that women flew the bombers, but ferrying a plane around and flying it in combat are two different things. Women just aren't strong enough to pull a P-38 out of a dive, or pilot a B-17 with half its tail shot off for four hours and then land it safely. The female Russian pilots mostly flew cropdusters and trainers. They'd come in at night, cut the engines over the German lines, and toss out grenades WW-1 style.

What happens to women combat pilots today when the modern power-assisted controls get shot up (or does that actually happen)?
12.3.2007 9:11am
George Phillies (mail) (www):
"Fly by wire" is not "power assisted" and has not been for a very long time. If the redundant power systems fail, the aircraft is not really flyable. There was a strength issue in Gulf War 1: One pilot managed to pull his control joystick out of the cockpit frame and had an interesting time managing the aircraft.

A modest internet search indicates that our Navy uses substantial numbers of women as combat pilots flying from aircraft carriers.
12.3.2007 9:28am
Aultimer:
Women have the capacity to fill most roles. Morale issues are much stickier, and it isn't limited to the enlisted. Annapolis has been doing surprise bed checks. In the old days, it would have been to see who went "over the wall" for some college-age fun. Nowadays it's to find extra occupants of the bed. I'm sure such things happened with single-sex military, but the odds are MUCH worse with every woman in the corps.
12.3.2007 9:42am
scooby (mail):
"What happens to women combat pilots today when the modern power-assisted controls get shot up (or does that actually happen)?"

Most modern aircraft are fly-by-wire, so if your controls are shot you're screwed.

I don't think combat pilots are really relevant to the current situation because a. there are very few pilots and b. they hardly ever actually get into combat.

I've got four years in the Army, most of it at a training area doing OPFOR stuff. It means I've seen thousands of US personnel doing training exercises of varying difficulty. We try to make the training as hard as we can, and we usually have to let up on them to give them a chance.

The biggest determiner of how well someone fights is the unit they're in. The infantry and cavalry units, especially Airborne and Ranger units, are usually the most aggressive and well coordinated fighters. (The Marine units I've seen weren't very good, but that was only a few and I'm not sure if they were Marine infantry.) The further removed a unit is from infantry, the less aggressive, the slower they are to move out, basically, the more they suck.

Still, even within a unit, the females are poor performers. They're less aggressive, easier to intimidate and they don't help a whole lot with casualty evacuation.

Here's my problem with it. There are, undoubtedly, a few women who could do great things in combat arms. But if you go to a typical high school to recruit, out of 1,000 teenage men and 1,000 teenage women, you can find hundreds of men who could capably serve in the infantry and maybe one or two women. If we were to maintain standards, I predict that most combat units (of company size) would have one or two women and they would be scraping by. And from guys I've talked to in units that have females, our combat units would have to lower standards. It's just a bad idea.
12.3.2007 9:55am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
In the aftermath of the Tailhook non-scandal, in fear of Pat Schroeder, the Navy graduated two women from Tomcat (F14) school with grades which should have flunked them. The person who outed that interesting piece of information was sought for--but not found, as far as I know--and a group which lobbied against women in combat was in some danger of a lawsuit demanding his/her name.
One of the grads did indeed crash, but it seemed to have been an engine failure in the second or two before landing and the consensus is that, whatever her shortcomings, they didn't kill her that day. The exigencies of carrier aviation did.
Point is the effect on what ought to be rational policies of political correctness. They should have flunked.
If women can manage the job, let them do it. However, in this country, "managing the job" means reducing reasonable requirements until the number of qualifying women satisfies NOW.
None of the foregoing addresses the interpersonal and unit issues.
There was court martial during Desert Storm where a guy and a gal were sharing the only blanket they had between them. He allegedly groped her. All things considered, it was probably going to happen and it was unfair to put them in that position. You younger types will recall hormones, you will imagine the carpe diem, you will even wonder if the guy, thinking the blanket sharing was some kind of implicit permission, was thinking he was being asked to make the move. In the civilian world, it would have been a reasonable judgment and being wrong wouldn't have resulted in criminal prosecution.
12.3.2007 10:09am
Temp Guest (mail):

A modest internet search indicates that our Navy uses substantial numbers of women as combat pilots flying from aircraft carriers.

I'm pretty good at internet searches and couldn't do what you suggest. Would you provide your search engine and search string. This is not a flame. I do want to know if I am mistaken that there are no women currently flying combat jets off US Navy carriers. I'm sure other posters would like to know too.
12.3.2007 10:12am
Waldensian (mail):

The biography of Captain Mariner makes much of the fact that the Navy did (does??) not include women in its programs involving combat jets landing and taking off from carriers. Some one correct me if I'm wrong, but it is my understanding that the Navy's one experiment in that direction involved the crash death of a female pilot (and the loss of the very expensive jet she was flying) during a carrier landing.

Well, you're not entirely wrong, but you're wrong to an embarassing extent.

There was indeed a crash of a Navy jet (I believe an F-14) piloted by a woman, in the early years of allowing women to fly fighters off of carriers, and at the time there were concerns expressed about whether she had been "socially promoted" or not. I don't know how that investigation came out. I do know that landing a fighter on a carrier is a dangerous business that has claimed the lives of many male pilots. From what I've seen firsthand, I find it hard to believe that the Navy would look the other way and entrust a combat aircraft to an unqualified person. But I don't know whether it happened in that one case.

I also know that women currently fly combat aircraft off of carriers all the time. I've watched them do it. In fact, I recently met the commanding officer of a Navy F-18 squadron, and she certainly looked like a woman to me. A friend of mine commands a Super Hornet squadron, and he tells me that the most lethal pilot he knows is a woman.

I also met one of his sailors, a diminutive woman who loads bombs on airplanes. He said she was the best in the fleet, and that plane-arming teams that included women had won several contests against all-male squads, despite the fact that the work involves a great deal of manual labor and heavy lifting.

If people are looking for evidence that women shouldn't be in combat roles, I suggest avoiding Naval aviation.

Finally (different poster): our high-performance fighters have come a long way from mechanical controls in B-17s and P-38s. Women in modern combat aircraft can, and do, perform all the required tasks as well as males. And in any event, you discount the contribution of Russian women pilots in WWII far too heavily. Not all of them flew Po-2 biplanes at night (although that required considerable skill and was very hazardous duty). Check this out, for example.
12.3.2007 10:23am
glangston (mail):
Some women may be able to handle combat but few men will be able to handle childbirth.
12.3.2007 10:25am
Waldensian (mail):

I'm pretty good at internet searches and couldn't do what you suggest. Would you provide your search engine and search string. This is not a flame. I do want to know if I am mistaken that there are no women currently flying combat jets off US Navy carriers. I'm sure other posters would like to know too.

With all due respect, I don't think you're all that good at internet searching!

Women aren't just flying combat jets. One of them is commanding a squadron.

In other news, have you heard that President Kennedy was shot? :)
12.3.2007 10:29am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
glangston.

In that case, it's good that there is no political pressure requiring half the births be to men.
12.3.2007 10:33am
Daniel San:
Temp Guest requested: Would you provide your search engine and search string.

I Googled "women combat pilots" and got some interesting links. None that demonstrated significant numbers, but some stories and (seemingly) good information.
12.3.2007 10:40am
Houston Lawyer:
I strongly suspect that those advocating placing women in combat roles (a)don't care much about the effect that such women would have on combat effectiveness and (b) would be the first to use the deaths of those women as a rallying point to cause us to withdraw from whatever combat we are engaged in at the time.

Didn't we lower the physical strength requirements at all of our military academies back in the 70s when women were first allowed to attend? I just read a piece by Michael Yon where he described a scene in Iraq where the British soldiers were fighting in 120 degree weather. The heat and physical exertion were every bit as dangerous to those men as the enemy. So don't tell me that physical strength doesn't matter.
12.3.2007 10:51am
DaSarge (mail):

And having co-ed combat units makes this easier? Only if you engage in heavy duty denial and SERIOUS magical thinking.


This is the only comment that actually gets to the heart of the matter. It is not so much strength, though that is an issue. [E.g. How many women can carry 90 lbs of gear & still heft herself over a barrier or climb a wall?] The big issue is sex. The core problem for any combat leader is unit cohesion and nothing will destroy that cohesion faster than sexual tension. Imagine you are a squad leader and you must order one of three fire teams to make an open assault with a high probability of fatalities in the assault team. And one of the fire team leaders is your lover?

It is indeed only magical thinking that gets by the reality. Only non-combat ideologues can think like this -- or the "intelligentsia" so well described by Orwell.

The arguments so far are are permutations of adolescent narcissism. Certain groups believe they have a "right" to combat roles. Combat is not a "me" thing; it is an "us" thing. The best marksman is not necessarily the best leader and vice versa. Unit cohesion trumps any childish claim of right.

Combat does not discriminate. It does not care if it is "fair" and combat has no social conscience. It just kills you and your buddies if you get it wrong.
12.3.2007 10:54am
DaSarge (mail):

And having co-ed combat units makes this easier? Only if you engage in heavy duty denial and SERIOUS magical thinking.


This is the only comment that actually gets to the heart of the matter. It is not so much strength, though that is an issue. [E.g. How many women can carry 90 lbs of gear & still heft herself over a barrier or climb a wall?] The big issue is sex. The core problem for any combat leader is unit cohesion and nothing will destroy that cohesion faster than sexual tension. Imagine you are a squad leader and you must order one of three fire teams to make an open assault with a high probability of fatalities in the assault team. And one of the fire team leaders is your lover?

It is indeed only magical thinking that gets by the reality. Only non-combat ideologues can think like this -- or the "intelligentsia" so well described by Orwell.

The arguments so far are are permutations of adolescent narcissism. Certain groups believe they have a "right" to combat roles. Combat is not a "me" thing; it is an "us" thing. The best marksman is not necessarily the best leader and vice versa. Unit cohesion trumps any childish claim of right.

Combat does not discriminate. It does not care if it is "fair" and combat has no social conscience. It just kills you and your buddies if you get it wrong.
12.3.2007 10:54am
Philistine (mail):
In a Story from 1998, the first Navy woman pilot to engage in combat is discussed. At that time, she was 1 of 3 woman F-18 pilots on the Enterprise. The story notes there were (at that time) 14 woman F-18 pilots in the Navy and 277 total woman pilots (in the Navy).

It doesn't give figures for the air force, but notes that women have been flying helicopters in the Army since 1973.
12.3.2007 11:04am
Temp Guest (mail):
Daniel San:

Again this is not a flame, but after examining the first thirty sites that your suggested search brought up, I found nothing to contradict my originally implied assertion that after one badly failed experiment the US Navy no longer has any women pilots flying jet combat missions off aircraft carriers.
12.3.2007 11:04am
Philistine (mail):

Imagine you are a squad leader and you must order one of three fire teams to make an open assault with a high probability of fatalities in the assault team. And one of the fire team leaders is your lover?


Which is why fraternization is disallowed.

Imagine that instead of being a lover, one of the fire team leaders is, say, your best friend? Or someone what owes you money?
12.3.2007 11:10am
rarango (mail):
I do believe that, at least within two standard deviations, women do not have the upper body strength nor aerobic endurance to perform many of the tasks required of soldiers in the combat arms (Armor, Infantry, Artillery, Engineers, and Signal). That is not meant to be a sexist statement; it is empirical and measurable.

The comments about naval aviation and aviation in general are interesting but irrelevant when it comes to ground combat. I don't care who is piloting the aircraft; I do care about who is on my flanks.
12.3.2007 11:19am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"A modest internet search indicates that our Navy uses substantial numbers of women as combat pilots flying from aircraft carriers."

How about providing us with a few links to the sites that you feel provide compelling evidence for your assertion? You really don't say much when you tell people to go google something. You can find any position on the Internet.
12.3.2007 11:27am
AnonLawStudent:
Those discussing the F-14 crash are referencing Lt. Kara Hultgreen. One of the first two female aviators assigned to drive F-14s, Lt. Hultgreen's aircraft experienced a compressor stall and flameout due to pilot error, i.e. she maneurvered the aircraft in a manner known to cause problems with airflow to the engine. The other female Tomcat driver, Lt. Carey Lohrenz , was grounded for unsafe flying. Both were widely reported to have received "special treatment" in the training pipeline.

Whether or not the discussion hinges on physiological issues, Hultgreen and Lohrenz are emblematic of the concern with lowering standards to achieve a politically correct result. FYI, the switch to fly-by-wire doesn't alleviate the need for strength in high-performance flight. If you've ever tried to move a limb at 4G's, you know what I'm talking about. Not everything is HOTAS.
12.3.2007 11:29am
AnonLawStudent:
Temp Guest,

The Navy does, indeed, have female aviators. R/AnonLawStudent, LT, USNR.
12.3.2007 11:32am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Leigh Ann Hester (google Raven 42) won a Silver Star which seems to be beyond quibble.
It was in ground combat. She and her teammates dismounted a couple of humvees and cleared a trench line during an ambush.
I am not certain how long she was afoot. Possibly half an hour?
She was not humping ninety pounds all day, kicking in doors, climbing walls--or stairs--or digging a position under urgent threat of enemy action when the dirt really has to fly.
She was effective in her action. She was in an MP (Infantry for Chicks) company in the Kentucky Guard.
I take nothing from her to point out that she acted as a MP ought, but had not preceded it with a couple of days on foot.
Ref the heat issue. One US platoon fought with half the guys getting hydrated with IVs while IN ACTION. Women, who sweat less, are more susceptible to heat injuries (I've coached boys and girls and it's true in my experience).
There is falsehood that lack of combat command time reduces a woman's chance of promotion. Only true at the highest level. Promotions are within branches. Somebody gets to be Adjutant General of The Army, and he's the best paper-pusher in the whole Army. He's not promoted against grunts, treadheads, tracktoads and cannoncockers. The same is true of transport, say, or quartermasters. Promotions are within the branch where either nobody has combat command time, or some or most do (the combat arms). No woman QM is at a disadvantage because she's being compared to an Infantry officer with combat command time. Those are different branches. She wouldn't be compared to the Infantryman. Nor he with her.
12.3.2007 11:45am
Temp Guest (mail):
AnonLawStudent:

I know the Navy has female pilots. I don't believe they have any qualified to take off and land jet fighters from carriers. Please correct me with evidence if I am wrong. See earlier posts for clarification.
12.3.2007 12:04pm
Temp Guest (mail):
Waldensian:

Thank you for an actual link that seems to contradict what I thought. It seems that the Navy does now have female officers qualified for combat operations from aircraft carriers.
12.3.2007 12:09pm
Waldensian (mail):

Thank you for an actual link that seems to contradict what I thought. It seems that the Navy does now have female officers qualified for combat operations from aircraft carriers.

You are more than welcome. And trust me, you can delete the "seems." Let there be no mistake: I have met some of these women (including the first female F-18 squadron commander) and I have watched some of them land on an aircraft carrier.

There may be arguments back and forth about whether women should fly combat aircraft. But if you don't think they should, you may want to avoid discussing Naval aviation, where they fly routinely and effectively under some of the most demanding conditions anywhere. Landing a fighter on an aircraft carrier is an unbelievably difficult thing to do.

It's been a long time since Lt. Hultgreen's crash -- whatever the merits of her case. And again, I'm not familiar with the facts of that. As a pilot, I do know that the facts matter and that technically illiterate journalists often get critical things wrong. I'd want to at least start with the Navy's report on that incident, and I wouldn't pay much attention to anyone opining about the crash who hasn't read that report.
12.3.2007 3:59pm
ALS:
Waldensian,

From contemporaneous references, it appears that the MIR was leaked and published on AOL at the time. Copy here:
http://www.panix.com/~baldwin/hultgreen_mir.txt

To quote from the MIR:
D. Aircrew factor - [Mishap Pilot's]attempt to salvage overshooting approach with leftrudder led to reduced eng comp stall margin, contributing to left eng comp stall. Accepted. [Landing Signal Officers] perceived [Mishap Aircraft] left rudder input during WUOSX. Stall margin was already reduced up to 26 percent on left engine due to MCB system stuck in bleeds closed position. F-14A NATOPS manual (ref C), pg IV-11-4, para 11.4.2.1 states: ``excessive sideslip, even at low AOA, may result in compressor stalls anywhere in the aircraft flight envelope.'' and, ``TF30 engines are prone to compressor stalls if high AOA is combined with sideslip.'' [Mishap Pilot] was adjusting throttle settings in normal course of the approach to decelerate ma to wings level on speed of 139 KIAS from 145-148 KIAS at the ninety. [Mishap Aircraft] AOB during WUOSX was 42 to 45 deg. AMB believes [Mishap Pilot] applied left rudder in attempt to correct for overshooting start. Overcontrol of [Mishap Aircraft], reduced throttle setting, and sideslip, combined with the MCB stuck in bleeds closed position contributed to comp stall of the left eng. Based upon above analysis, AMB concludes [Mishap Pilot] overcontrolled [Mishap Aircraft]in attempt to salvage overshooting approach with left rudder, leading to decreased eng stall margin and contributed to left eng comp stall.
E. Aircrew factor - [Mishap Pilot] failed to execute proper single eng Waveoff procedures. Accepted. Analysis shows [Mishap Aircraft] departed controlled flight at approx 20 units AOA, approx six seconds after waveoff.

Summary in plain english: Hultgreen was flying a poor approach, i.e. slow and overshooting, and tried to fix the approach with a control input that the F-14 manual specifically warns against. A bleed air valve that MIGHT have helped the situation was stuck. Hultgreen then failed to properly execute the [what I would assume to be boldface] emergency procedure, resulting in loss of control effectiveness. The report goes on to note that the backseater initiated ejection, but the inter-seat sequence delay resulted in Hultgreen's ejection being out-of-the-envelope.

Please note also that most Navy aircraft fly an AOA approach, which eats away any safety over the aerodynamic stall margin. The backseater indicated that she was 10 knots slow. 10 knots is huge and deadly in that situation.
12.3.2007 4:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
ALS.
I had heard it was unavoidable.
It would be uncharitable, still, to lay it to the fact that she should not have graduated and that guys with her skill level were routinely flunked. Until we discover that her shortcomings were in the area of traps, it could be an error not restricted to the should-have-flunked.
12.3.2007 5:01pm
ALS:
Richard,

It was only "unavoidable" in the sense that once she performed a maneuver that the aircraft manual specifically warned against, a piece of equipment that *might* (or might not) have helped failed to work. So you have three pilot factors that directly caused the crash (1) poor approach (particularly low approach speed), (2) violating a warning in the flight manual, and (3) failure to execute an emergency boldface. A student in primary flight training would fail a ride for doing any-of-the-above. The shortcoming was not in "traps;" it was in basic flight skills. Given how basic these errors are, and the fact that a student pilot fails the ride for doing any one of them, any "special treatment" provided in the training pipeline is highly relevant.
12.3.2007 5:11pm
George Phillies (mail) (www):
The google search I tried was

navy carrier pilot female

Your mileage will vary. Google searches are dynamic. Google keywords often yield interesting results.

A typical article

http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/williams_k.html

I also found material on the woman who crashed early on.
12.3.2007 6:03pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
ALS. I don't like the idea of passing women who should have flunked because the mighty US Navy is skeered of Pat Schroeder and her minions.
Is it your opinion, though, that this mishap was made substantially more likely by the fact that she was not qualified, by the usual standards, to fly off carriers? I know such can happen to a lot of people who actually passed according to normal standards. But is Lt. Hultgren's mishap more than ordinarily a matter of what she didn't learn? Or a matter of nobody's perfect, including the guys with the top scores?
12.3.2007 10:16pm
ALS:
Richard,

(1) One of the first things ANY pilot, civilian or military, learns is that low + slow = dead. An AOA approach takes away the safety of an airspeed margin. On final, the pilot should be worried about two things: aimpoint (or the ball, in this case) and airspeed. It's a mistake that has gotten a lot of pilots killed, even experienced ones, so let's say we let that one slide.
(2) Boldface: Boldfaces are critical checklist items that are committed to memory because the applicable situation doesn't give time for referencing the in-flight checklist. Failing to perform a boldface flawlessly is unforgivable. The Air Force takes them seriously enough that (i) in most squadrons, winged pilots have to write them out, verbatim, including correct punctuation, on a monthly basis to maintain currency, and (ii) student pilots write them out daily, to the same standards. In the case of student pilots, one or two are selected each morning at the flight briefing, presented an emergency situation, and required to work through it; failure to recite an applicable boldface verbatim results in grounding for the day. I've never looked at the F-14 NATOPS (flight manual), but I can't imagine that a single engine waveoff is not a boldface.
(3) Notes / Warnings / Cautions: They are integrated into the flight manuals and checklists for a reason, almost invariably because (i) someone got killed, (ii) someone almost got killed, or (iii) somebody broke a very expensive airplane doing whatever the N/W/C discusses. Verbatim knowledge isn't required, but the pilot better have a good idea of the contents.

As applied to Lt. Hultgreen: I cannot fathom how anyone could honestly make it through the entire flight pipeline without having (1), (2), and (3) become part of their soul, yet the MIR indicates that all three issues were present in Lt. Hultgreen's crash. Grades for jet slots do vary - some months Chuck Yeager couldn't get one, some months a heart-beat and a 52 NSS (the minimum score for jets) is all it takes. I obviously don't know the particulars of her flight training. I will say that in my time, I did see more than a few female officers at the 0-5 or 0-6 level who appeared to have been promoted for political reasons during the same period as Hultgreen's training, i.e. their military resumes clearly did not comport with the billets they occupied. Sorry if it's a bit long, but that's my answer and I'm stickin' to it.
12.3.2007 11:16pm
Waldensian (mail):

I obviously don't know the particulars of her flight training.

But that is really the only relevant issue.

Actually, even those particulars aren't all that relevant. Whatever happened with Lt. Hultgreen -- bad training, social promotion, momentary huge brain lapse, etc. -- the question is whether women can, in general, be trained as efficiently as men and then operate Navy combat aircraft as proficiently as men.

From what I can tell, the answer appears to be emphatically "yes."
12.3.2007 11:32pm
Janus (mail):
ALS -- your thoughts are right on target from my perspective, after years in the business of military flight training.

Waldensian -- you seem to discount "social promotion" as irrelevant. Not so. Aviation is inherently dangerous. Advancement on gender rather than on merit is dangerous to the individual and it is detrimental to mission effectiveness. But top brass in all services are determined to counter the popular perception of male chauvinism in the military. The resulting pressure in military flight training effectively reverses the burden of proof for performance on "elimination" checkrides for marginal students. For males, the burden is on the student pilot to prove that he are capable enough to be passed. For female student pilots, the burden is on the check pilot to prove that the female student is hopelessly incapable of continuation in the program.

Females are as capable as males of becoming outstanding combat pilots. Two of them are flying for the USAF Thunderbirds now. But the socio-cultural-political reality of our time dictates that marginally-qualified females are given the "benefit" of the doubt when males are not.

The demand in the military for high-profile female role models greatly exceeds the supply. Gender-based preferential treatment is used to incentivize recruitment and retention of females as a valuable, scarce resource.
12.4.2007 12:38am
ALS:
Waldensian,

You may be right that women are as capable as men. Even assuming that consideration and all the other human factors issues disappear, if the political reality is that women can't be integrated while maintaining standards, they shouldn't be. One has to realize that it's someone's life you're playing with here. Can you *honestly* say that you would be willing to tell the parents of an 18 year old kid that he died so that girls could have a chance to play too? Or how about Hultgreen's parents? "Sorry, ma'am, Your daughter died because she screwed up, and oh, by the way, sorry that we let her get into a situation she wasn't ready to handle." Hultgreen only managed to kill herself; military f*ck ups usually get someone else hurt or killed.
12.4.2007 1:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It would be nice to know the women, since the first two female Tomcat pilots, are trained to the same standards as the men. Perhaps it's closer. The inexcusable thing about the first two is that their grades, if earned by men, would have flunked them.
Once that got out, the Navy went after the leak with an energy which, by itself, was curious, and the Center for Military Readiness (I think that's what it is) which made a big deal of it was begging for money for legal defense work.
As I said in the other post on this subject, let's have a show of hands. How many think standards won't be lowered, again?
12.4.2007 7:50am
Waldensian (mail):

Waldensian -- you seem to discount "social promotion" as irrelevant. Not so. Aviation is inherently dangerous.

Although I appreciate the lecture, I actually do understand these things. I'm a pilot. I'm guessing you are too, since we like to use that "inherently dangerou" phrase. Am I right?

Although the official saying, paraphrased, is that it isn't inherently dangerous, it's just terribly unforgiving of mistakes.

Anyway, I do not discount "social promotion." But based on my exposure to Naval aviation, I simply cannot believe that "social promotion" has been occurring with respect to the women CURRENTLY flying combat jets for the Navy. Is there any evidence that women are performing worse than men in these roles? I'm not aware of any, and the male Navy pilots I talk to certainly don't seem to believe that.

Holding the lone case of Lt. Hultgreen to one side, if we're talking about whether women should be flying combat jets for the Navy, we ought to talk about today and what is happening now. I don't see women crashing or performing badly in disproportionate numbers. Do you?

So I'll show my hand: it may be that Lt. Hultgreen was socially promoted, totally unqualified, and that her sorry history was covered over by the Navy in a PR campaign. We've seen the Navy do similar types of things (the explosion on the Iowa comes to mind). Or it may be that landing an F-14 on a carrier is incredibly difficult, and that Lt. Hultgreen had an accident that even a top-performing male could have had. Top pilots sometimes do really, really stupid things.

But are standards lowered in the Navy, currently, for female fighter pilots? I don't buy it. You owe it to yourself to meet these people and watch them work. Unqualified people just don't last long in that job. It is one of the most accountability-driven environments I have ever seen. Too bad our government doesn't work the same way.
12.4.2007 10:15am
Chuck Simmins (mail) (www):
I have 129 entries in my blog category Our Best: Babe Edition, though a few cover additional news about the same person.

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester: Silver Star
Captain Nichola Kathleen Sarah Goddard, Canadian Infantry
Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall: AF Commendation Medal with V
CWO3 Lori Hill: Distinguished Flying Cross
Michelle Suzanne Claire Norris: UK Military Cross in Iraq
Airman 1st Class Charity Lee Trueblood: Bronze Star with V
Pfc. Stephanie McCulley: Bronze Star with V
Pvt. Teresa Broadwell: Bronze Star with V
Spc. Maria C. Flores-Sanz: Army Commendation Medal with V
Pfc. Jessica Lynn Nicholson: Army Commendation Medal with V
Spc. Rachael Hugo: "Combat Batbie"
Master Sgt. Luann Van Peursem: AF Commendation Medal with V
Airborne Capt. Kellie McCoy: Bronze Star with V
Staff Sgt. Serena Maren Di Virgilio: Bronze Star with V
Petty Officer 2 Tempie Devers, EOD: Bronze Star with V
Captain Kim Campbell, A-10 pilot: Distinguished Flying Cross
Airman 1st Class Nicole P. O'Hara: Bronze Star with V
12.4.2007 10:50pm
K Parker (mail):
ALS,

Can you give a brief explanation of "AOA Approach" for dummies?
12.5.2007 2:12am
ALS:
K Parker,

Normally, pilots conduct their final approach at a fixed speed based on the landing configuration, e.g. 105 KIAS at full flaps, 110 KIAS for half flaps, 115 KIAS for no flaps. For an Angle of Attack (AOA) approach, the pilot begins the approach at a fixed speed, but then transitions to an instrument with up, down, and on-angle indications, the data for which is supplied by a sensor on the wing. The idea is that a slightly slower approach can be conducted because the pilot has information on where the aerodynamic stall point actually is, rather than just flying at a fixed speed which is safely over the stall point. The tradeoff, of course, being that there is a greatly reduced margin of airspeed over the stall point. My understanding for the Navy preference is that AOA approaches (i) reduce speed (and thus energy) on contact with the flight deck, and (ii) result in a relatively constant exposure of the tailhook. I flew them in flight training, got signed off, and haven't done any since, so I'd welcome anyone to offer a more complete discussion.
12.5.2007 8:36am
Legal Shmegal:
All this talk of female fighter pilots ignores ground-based forces. I'd like to know the percentage of women (even women in the military!) who are able to pick up a wounded 160 lb. man and carry (not drag) him to safety while maintaining security with one hand on her rifle? In 8 years in Marine Infantry I don't remember ever seeing a woman able to do so. At Officer Candidates School, for example, while the men were doing "log drills" with half-ton tree logs, the women were barely able to carry around a 200 lb. log in a medical litter and had to switch off roughly every minute. Also, during forced marches, women were separated from men and marched 1 mile/hour more slowly, with lighter packs. Finally, the overall attrition rate for women was over 90%.

In boot camp men and women were not allowed to practice hand to hand combat. Most didn't even have the ever-so-minimal amount of upper body strength to climb a rope.

Women don't belong in any unit that is even remotely near a possible combat zone.

Also, Scooby, you spent 4 years training OPFOR yet don't know whether the units you saw were Marine Infantry? My only experience with OPFOR was in Ft. Irwin, where my lone Infantry Company destroyed a mechanized brigade of the 4th ID to the point where they, literally, called a time out, told us to return to the barracks for the night, and started the whole exercise over the next morning. The OPFOR Commander said that in his time at Irwin he had never seen such wholesale destruction. Granted, we were all "dead" (wearing MILES gear), but so what? Mission accomplished.
12.5.2007 10:16am
ALS:
Legal,

I think most of us are using female pilots as an example of the political reality that standards can't be maintained in the face of an "incorrect" result. The same logic (plus additional considerations) would apply to letting women into ground combat units. Your comment re: your OCS experience is yet another example.
12.5.2007 10:24am