[Rosemary Mariner, guest-blogging, December 20, 2007 at 5:54pm] Trackbacks
The Americanization of the Armed Forces-Response to Comments:

[Duplicate post deleted. If you commented on this post, please repost the comments on the post immediately above this one, since it makes sense for the comments to all be one thread. -EV]

Skyler (mail) (www):
I would not want to characterize the good Captain's intent as being deceitful, but this statement is horribly misleading.

Second, the issue of recruiting standards. While the basic standard is gender neutral (everyone takes the same test and is categorized the same)

No one has implied that women have to meet lower intellectual test standards. In fact, women frequently have to have higher test scores to enlist because of the demographics and limitations on their use in the military.

Since I'm not going to accuse a Captain in the US Navy of being misleading, I'll charitably point out that the wrong conclusion might easily be taken from her statement, that women are held to the same standard as men when enlisting.

Happily for women, this is not the case. Women do not meet the same standards as men to get past the initial recruitment. There may not be a physical fitness test prior to enlistment, but it is a requirement to graduate from recruit training, and the standards are markedly different.

Even for the medical requirements, the standards are different. Women are allowed a noticeably different body fat percent, height standards and any number of other standards.

To imply that male and female requirements are gender neutral is wrong by any definition of the terms and the good Captain should be more informed about such basic information.
12.20.2007 6:09pm
Oh, I'll call it deceitful at this point - either that, or she is clearly unfamiliar with the English language.

SO WHAT if women went all the way to Berlin? What were they doing? Were there females in actual ground combat roles (infantry, armor, artillery) actually facing the germans, or were they in support roles? 800K women in the Red Army doesn't tell me how many were actually the soviet equivalent of WAF's and how many were in those (1, then 3 then 1, then none) squadrons of fighters, dogfighting against the Luftwaffe? Snipers? Leading infantry units in contact with the enemy?

She says that her fundamental conclusion is that positions should be based on merit. Fair enough. When a woman can meet the exact same (not gender normed) physical requirements for a combat slot, can do the same number of real pushups and pullups in Airborne school, can run to the same time limits on the track, and then can hump the same 150+ pounds of gear into the back of a C130, land in a non-permissive area and fight for a week with nothing but what they carried in, then they will be eligible for the same meritocracy that the men have.

We have evidence that women will not put themselves into these situations (in any significant degree, ref the women getting pregnant to avoid sea duty or deployments), and we know that there are incredibly few women (if any at all) who can handle the actual physical requirements of the work that combat arms (Inf, Armor, Artillery) requires. Charging an M2HB machine gun is not a two man person evolution, yet I know that many women in the army cannot do it - much less actually pick that thing up and move it in peacetime, much less under fire.

Everyone does not take the same (physical or medical) test. The AF classifies recruits with normed scores for P(ulmonary), U(pper extremities), L(lower extremities, H(head and neck)E (Eyes, vision) and S (Strength). The strength requirement was quite simple: Lift a 80 lb weight on a curling machine over your head. The vast majority (>99%) of male applicants could do it, the vast majority (>80%) of female applicants couldn't. So, the test was normed to 50lb for women.

CAPT Mariner seems to be willfully ignorant of the requirements for ground combat. The CAATS report I referenced in Dr. Brown's presentation discusses actual, real world, mission REQUIRED loads that infantry soldiers in real life combat units actually carried into combat in 2003 - not what soviet women may have done in 1942. The average soldier (11B, or infantryman) carried a combat load of 127 lbs - this would be 100% of body weight or very close to it for any woman who could qualify for military training at all (in fact its 71% of body weight for an infantry MAN, on average).

Is there, somewhere in the US a woman who can do that sort of work, and is willing to give it a try? Maybe.

Are there any significant numbers of women in the US that can do that sort of work? Doubtful. Nor are there likely any numbers of women who would be willing to spend a week or two in the infantry or cavalry as real soldiers (instead of clerks and whatnot), absent something like (perhaps) the invasion of the United States by an enemy.
12.20.2007 7:10pm
Aegis of Blogistan (mail):
She can't respond to certain questions because she hasn't got the data, and she doesn't want to admit that her position isn't based on data, just conviction.
12.20.2007 9:16pm
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
CAPT Mariner:

I find your citations of the Soviet Union's use of female soldiers very unpersuasive, because they are completely devoid of factual content. The little that I was able to come up with -- Soviet female Aces -- might have shown that women under-perform in aerial combat.

Or, it might not, since there was no information available on number of missions, or where/when the women flew them.

On balance, though, I find it striking that both Russia and Israel have chosen to exclude women from direct combat roles. If it wasn't broken, why fix it?

Perhaps the major reason senior leadership is uncomfortable with establishing strength standards is because service chiefs must also plan for mobilization.

I have a different answer.

The major reason is that doing so leads to unpalatable results. If across the board strength standards were set at the 25th percentile male, I doubt even one female would qualify. All but the weakest men are stronger then all women.

What to do when you can't stand the answer? Don't ask the question.

Per Skyler, who has provided more sense on this subject than anyone, women should be excluded from all ground combat roles. If they exhibited the same physical capabilities as men that they do as women, they would never make the cut.

It is almost axiomatic that standards will be weakened until some representative number of women can make the cut -- Fire departments are classic examples of this -- because there is political pressure from people who haven't yet learned there is no such thing as a good theory that doesn't work in practice. I have personal experience. In the late '90s, DACOWITS intruded into the workings of my pilot training squadron because, in their "have you stopped beating your female students" view, insufficient numbers of women were going into combat aircraft. (DACOWITS finally backed off when they could no longer avoid the conclusion that very few women performed well enough in pilot training to succeed in fighters, and scarcely any of those who made the cut chose fighters over heavies).

Providing a gender exemption for ground combat units is dangerous both to them and, when push comes to kill, the men in their units. Not only in terms of relative capability, but also in terms of human nature (more below). Men will not make the same decisions under fire regarding their female compatriots as they will other men. Because those decisions will be informed by ineradicable instinct and emotion instead of tactical exigencies, they will be, by their very nature, bad decisions.

Which means, unavoidably, more casualties.

[Psychometrics] is all about individual differences and rejects group membership as a substitute for estimating psychological attributes.

That's as may be.

However, the University of the Bloody Obvious has long since taught that, on average, those suffering testosterone poisoning are way ahead in competitiveness, aggressiveness, and disregard for personal safety.

So, by weight of sheer numbers, group membership is an outstanding proxy for these essential psychological attributes.

Which are singularly resistant to determining on the individual level, before the fact.

Finally, the larger issue of who serves and how, must be viewed from the strategic level as well as the tactical.


Yet you have ignored the single most important reason to exclude women from combat roles: human nature.

I am not talking about soldiers here, but rather Americans in general.

The US military exists, primarily, to advance US national security interests when diplomacy fails. Anything that detracts from that goal is bad.

Women in combat roles run the risk of seriously undermining that goal, for reasons having nothing to do with aptitude.

I am sure everyone here is familiar with both Jessica Lynch and Rhonda Cornum.

Anyone know who Jeff Tice is?

There is a crucial, ineradicable, reason why those two women are so widely known, yet virtually no one (other than those that know them personally) can name even one male POW whose name isn't John McCain.

People react far more viscerally -- and the imagination is only to happy to muse on the privations -- when faced with the capture of women than men.

Consequently, should any significant number of women be captured, where significant is any integer greater than zero, it will immediately make non-stop headline news.

Thereby providing the enemy with a lever we have handed them.

It is already difficult enough to commit democracies to war, the absolute last thing we need to do is hand any enemy a very powerful motivation to seriously undermine our war effort through the expedient of capturing a few women.

Consider the impact of an enemy distributing videos of our women POWs being violated, or beheaded.

Consider the tactical decisions we would make, which we would never consider otherwise, in order to recover those women.

Your advocacy of women in combat roles fails at the tactical level (Excluding combat pilots; I was one, and Skyler is right, flying a fighter doesn't count as real combat). But what is worse, through ignoring human nature, it fails completely at the strategic level, so much so that you didn't even think to consider asymmetrical warfare aimed at the home front.

(BTW, I a retired USAF Lt Col with combat experience, 3 years at the Pentagon, and three years leading pilot training squadrons)
12.20.2007 11:17pm
Tracy Johnson (www):
The Russian Women's Batallion in WWI gained 50 Meters (or 500, I forget which) more than the Mens' Batallions on their flanks. Which duly embarrassed them, they were subsequently pulled from the front shortly thereafter.
12.21.2007 9:28am