Seven Myths About ‘Women in Combat’

Gregory S. Newbold served 32 years as a Marine infantryman, commanding units from platoon to the 1st Marine Division. His final assignment before retiring in 2002 was as director of operations for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.


Reprinted from michaelyon-online.com.

Myth #1“It’s about women in combat.”

No, it’s not. Women are already in combat, and are serving well and professionally. The issue should be more clearly entitled, “Women in the infantry.” And this is a decidedly different proposition.

Myth #2“Combat has changed” (often accompanied by “There are no front lines anymore”).

This convenient misconception requires several counters. First, any serious study of military history will reveal numerous historical examples about how successive generations (over millennia) believed that warfare had changed forever, only to find that technology may change platforms, but not its harsh essence. To hope that conflicts over the last 20 years are models of a new, antiseptic form of warfare is delusional.

The second point is that the enemy gets a vote – time, place, and style. For example, war on the Korean Peninsula would be a brutal, costly, no-holds-barred nightmare of mayhem in close combat with casualties in a week that could surpass the annual total of recent conflict.

The final point on this myth reinforces the Korea example and it bears examination — Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, where warfare was reduced to a horrific, costly, and exhausting scrap in a destroyed city between two foes that fought to the death.

The standard for ground combat unit composition should be whether social experimentation would have amplified our opportunity for success in that crucible, or diminished it. We gamble with our future security when we set standards for warfare based on the best case, instead of the harshest one.

Myth #3“If they pass the physical standards, why not?”

Physical standards are important, but not nearly all of the story. Napoleon – “The moral (spirit) is to the physical as three is to one.”

Unit cohesion is the essence of combat power, and while it may be convenient to dismiss human nature for political expediency, the facts are that sexual dynamics will exist and can affect morale. That may be manageable in other environments, but not in close combat.

Any study of sexual harassment statistics in this age cohort – in the military, academia, or the civilian workplace — are evidence enough that despite best efforts to by sincere leaders to control the issue, human instincts remain strong. Perceptions of favoritism or harassment will be corrosive, and cohesion will be the victim.

Myth #4“Standards won’t be lowered.”

This is the cruelest myth of all. The statements of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are telling.

They essentially declare “guilty until proven innocent” on anyone attempting to maintain the standards which produced the finest fighting force in the world. There are already accommodations (note that unit cohesion won’t be a metric), there will be many more, and we will pay a bloody price for it someday.

Pity the truthful leader who attempts to hold to standards based on realistic combat factors, and tells truth to power. Most won’t, and the others won’t survive.

Myth #5“Opening the infantry will provide a better pathway to senior rank for the talented women.”

Not so. What will happen is that we will take very talented females with unlimited potential and change their peer norm when we inject them into the infantry.

Those who might meet the infantry physical standard will find that their peers are expected, as leaders, to far exceed it (and most of their subordinates will, as well).

So instead of advancing to a level appropriate to their potential, they may well be left out.

Myth #6“It’s a civil rights issue, much like the integration of the armed forces and allowing gays to serve openly.”

Those who parrot this either hope to scare honest and frank discussion, or confuse national security with utopian ideas.

In the process, they demean initiatives that were to provide equally skilled individuals the opportunity to contribute equally. In each of the other issues, lowered standards were not the consequence.

Myth #7“It’s just fair.”

Allow me two points.

First, this is ground warfare we’re discussing, so realism is important.

“Fair” is not part of the direct ground combat lexicon.

Direct ground combat, such as experienced in the frozen tundra of Korea, the rubble of Stalingrad, or the endless 30-day jungle patrols against a grim foe in Viet Nam, is the harshest meritocracy — with the greatest consequences — there is.

And psychology in warfare is germane – the force that is respected (and, yes, feared) has a distinct advantage.

Will women in our infantry enhance a psychological advantage, or hinder it?

Second, if it’s about fairness, why do women get a choice of whether to serve in the infantry (when men do not), and why aren’t they required to register for the draft (as men are)?

It may be that we live in a society in which honest discussion of this issue, relying on facts instead of volume, is not possible. If so, our national security will fall victim to hope instead of reality. And myths be damned.

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  • κατεργάζομαι

    . RE: 'Seven Myths About ‘Women in Combat’

    ~ I have PMS and a handgun, any questions?

    .

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Let's put it this way – women in IDF combat units are every bit as effective as their male counterparts, and this is not coming from someone who is a feminist. Not at all.
    While the following you tube only shows one female, however, another one shows how fearsome they can be – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/03/20/im-an-israeli

    Here's the fearsome women! http://www.theworld.org/2013/01/idf-women-warrior

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • Keiht Patton

      Adina: You are working with half a deck. The IDF withdrew women from combat decades ago, since it was demoralizing to the public to see maimed and dead women coming back from the front. Get your facts straight before you make a fool of yourself.

    • Drakken

      Sorry Adina, your wrong on this one, woman as infantry fighters does not work period,it never has, it never will. This will be a epic fail for the social engineers who think the two sexes are equal.

  • UCSPanther

    The IDF trains women for combat, but it does not place them on the front lines. Since 1948, no woman has served on the front lines in any of Israel's wars.

  • Steve

    It's all been downhill since they were allowed to vote right guys?

    • Alpha_1

      Surely Steve, you can do better than that. Taking a very cheap shot at somebody who doesn't agree with you and basing your premise on your own prejudices is cowardly in the extreme.

      Women and men are hardly equal. Apples and oranges. Women are better at some things, men are better at other things. Perhaps men are better suited for front line combat. Does that make women less equal? And 'equal in what way? Equality is the wrong measuring stick for this issue. it's a truly silly argument.

      • κατεργάζομαι

        Replying to Alpha_1 – Isn't this your pledge week?

        Alpha Omega Delta Gama……surely your frat house has greater issues?

        One night Alpha_1 heard a noise under his bed.

        Fearing it might be a burglar, Alpha_1 leaned over and whispered, "Anybody there?"

        "No," said the burglar.

        "That's funny," the Alpha_1 said to himself. "I could have sworn I heard a noise!"

    • IMHomo

      Yes.

    • Guest

      Yes in fact it has been and I am not poking fun here. It has also been downhill since they joined the work force in mass driving up,household incomes and thusly driving inflation. It has also been detrimental to children who are raised now in semi-communes of mostly uncaring day care providers.

      We have taken the most important role of a prosperous civilized society, that of women staying home and raising the next,generation of leaders and made this idea some in of old time horror.

      Why not take a look at the thinkinghousewife web site and hear from a woman's point of view yourself.

      Don't go the single mom route with me. Use your brain and understand their would be less of those if feminazis had not corrupted society.

    • Drakken

      There is no equality in combat, and woman are not equal where brutality is the norm.

    • κατεργάζομαι

      Replying to Steve – - - bump.

      Steve. Steve. Steve…..48% of the LEFT pay no tax.
      ~ They are tossed back and forth; with an alternating motion…(think Coin Operated Washing Machines)

      ……………looking for a reason to be AGITATED!!!!!

      " Henry "Henny" Youngman original Russian surname Yungman;[1] March 16, 1906 – February 24, 1998) was a British-American comedian and violinist famous for "one-liners", short, simple jokes usually delivered rapid-fire.

      His best known one-liner was………… "Take my wife—please."

      TIM…..ING is EV…ER..Y T..HIN…..G.

    • Joel

      Well…given the gender differences in voting, I think you could argue that. No 19th amendment, no Great Society? I'm just saying….

      • κατεργάζομαι

        Replying to Joel – & 'Petticoat Despots' –

        Yes, the Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits any United States citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex.

        The Hegelian-dialectic now understands this to imply "Same sex marriage."

        How "GREAT" our "Petticoat Society"!

    • John

      'It's all been downhill since they were allowed to vote right guys?"

      It has been argued that social welfare was ordained when women got the vote.

      there is a case for that.

    • Ghostwriter

      Steve,I think women can handle the right to vote. Please don't be a troglodyte.

    • wsk

      Don't be obtuse.

  • Godagesil

    As a historian of warfare, you better know what you are wishing for your daughters. Combat, face to face combat is a brutal ugly business. As the article says we have been lucky over the last three decades to have always had the upper hand. Our future foes, N. Korea, China, and possibly Russia all have similar capabilities to our own. The next war might not be a nice sanitary, ridiculously low casualty scrap. In Iraq and Afghanistan we suffered KIA casualties in 10 years that were less than what we suffered in one month in WWII on average. In 1944 we were suffering over 4000 KIAs a week with a corresponding X4 number of wounded.

    • Micha Elyi

      As a historian of female behavior, you better know that feminism took root in America as the abolitionist movement gained political influence. Then came the Civil War. Afterward, the Votes-For-Women movement nearly faded away completely. An entire generation of females who had lived through that war and learned up close (at least as closely as one can without risking a Minie ball oneself) what obligations were the price of the full privileges of citizenship. For over 40 years the suffragettes got nowhere in America. Then along came a new and ignorant generation. We are that generation's heirs.

  • Godagesil

    Men were living in foxholes for weeks. On Okinawa, Marines were living in foxholes half filled with water for a week or more under constant sniper fire unable even to leave their holes to defecate. They shared the same ground with unburied corpses of the enemy and their friends. Women think men are Neanderthals, we are, we evolved that way for a reason. We were designed for specific tasks that women were not. On average men are twice to three times stronger than women. We are larger have thicker skin and more muscle literally where it counts, on the upper arms, thighs shoulders where wounds are most likely to occur and where it would best serve us for strength needed in a fight.

  • Godagesil

    We have thicker skulls for the same reason. Nature designed man as a fighter, not the woman. Like it or not. You chauvinistic female seem so eager to get equality to die in an ugly brutal and degrading manner as long as its someone else’s daughter who gets the privilege. As a wise soldier once said, "There ain't much glory in a man with his guts hanging out." I hope you all live long enough to see your granddaughter die in as hideous a manner. I don't say this out of misogyny, I say it out of anger at the fact that this misguided social experiment will get many mother's sons killed due to degraded capability of coed combat units whose cohesion and moral have been compromised and degraded.

  • Godagesil

    A combat load is 80 lbs for each soldier spread across a squad. If a woman cannot carry her fair share then it means some other man has to carry more than his share and gets to combat fatigued more as a result. Physical standards will be lowered to make sure the mandated numbers are met, resulting in further degradation of capabilities. I won't even go into the fact that nearly all women captured in Iraq were raped, in both Gulf War I and II. But then I guess we need to provide some entertainment to the enemy right? Think of your daughter being locked in the Hanoi Hilton for 8 years. Nice thought eh?

  • davarino

    I fear they all look at this a career opportunity, rather than a chance to server our country, never thinking they will actually have to go into battle. Watch the pregnancies sky rocket as soon as a conflict breaks out. Then who fills in the gap?

    Or how does a woman deal with a bunch of guys out on the battle field. If she buddies up with a guy how do the other guys deal with that, and the jealousy. Is her boy friend supposed to carry her extra wieght and take a bullet for her……blah …………this is BS. Its not going to work, except in mock training battles where everyone goes home at night.

    • Larry

      The pregnancies already sky rocket every time a unit or ship with females is warned for deployment.

      Over the years the USN has lost approximately 40% of female crew members when their ships have been warned for combat deployments. The Gibraltar Ambulance is the nickname given to the helicopter shuttle from ship to shore as USN Task Groups enter the Med. It's full of pregnant women going one way and men yanked for other postings coming back.

  • davarino

    Or better yet, in order to solve this issue of mixing men and women, keep all the groups all men and all women. Institute branches of the services that are only men and only women. I wonder if women would sign up for that. And to make up for all past wars, from now on the women only groups get to go in first. How bout that women, would you sign up for that? Could you rely on only women to have your back : ) Wow, I think they would shoot each other first before they even saw the enemy : )

  • Freda

    Ludicrous out-of-touch-with-reality politicians, con-men and media followers present this as the epitome of equal rights, and democracy in action.
    In fact it is a travesty of justice, when both men and women will be dying on the battlefield because of this inane delusion resulting from a politicized machine .As a woman I believe strongly in equal rights but within the specialized strengths of each sex, and "Yes" there are specialized strengths of each sex….Thank Heavens for that.

  • AnOrdinaryMan

    Throughout history, there have been many brave women, some of whom have fought in combat, and more than a few in the IDF. IDF female soldiers are very competent. And I'll not soon forget the female IDF soldier in front of me, in line at a restaurant in Jerusalem. The top of her head didn't rise above my shoulder. She wore the gray uniform of the border patrol, and her AK-47 was almost as long as she was tall. I have no doubt that she faced adversity every day, in a calm and courageous manner. But if I was in combat, and had a choice as to a unit of male soldiers or female soldiers to back me up, I would choose the males. And Mr. Newbold is well qualified to write this article.

  • Zombee

    The wussification of the American military is making it a laughing stock. What happens in the heat of battle when J.I. Jane has a menstrual mood swing and maintenance issues? Do we raise our hand and call for a special time-out just for her? They have a weak back and are a weak link in combat.

    • Crossbow87

      I would argue that is ultimately the point…to destroy our military from within.

  • ADM

    The first myth, that it's not about combat but about the infantry is not quite right. Women are currently exposed to combat in a large number of roles. There is no evidence that they are fully capable of performing all tasks even in those roles. A "support" soldier trading the occasional shot with an insurgent while driving a convoy is radically different than defending it against, say, an infantry attack. And neither the Navy nor the Air Force have seen actual combat since WWII or Vietnam, respectively, naval aviation excepted.

    In my view, though, the infantry versus the rest aspect of this debate is flawed. All the strength, cohesion and readiness issues apply to all branches. Accepting that one can let them slide in some areas but not others simply guarantees a force that lacks resilience. A truly professional military views itself as a combat organization in its entirety. Individuals might be assigned to so-called suppport roles but they must be fully capable of combat. Otherwise, you have no ability to replace losses in the so-called combat troops quicklly.

  • jay

    They aren't doing it for fairness, they're doing it because they know it will neuter the military. They've hated the military from the start, and rather than defund it (since they'd fail) they guarentee we'll lose future wars. A military we're afraid to use serves their purpose just as well as a gutted military.

  • zsqpwxxeh

    The U.S. military is, and has been, a PC Festival for decades. Every photo shoot, every statement, every formation and parade is already carefully arranged to show women and minorities according to well-known quotas. This and the mandated acceptance of homosexuals is just the long-expected icing on a very old cake.

    The entire purpose of women in combat is to get female officers promoted to the general ranks. It's an old leftist metric: if the numbers don't reflect the demographics of the population, then we need Affirmative Action till they do. All they care about is the numbers. Winning and losing battles doesn't count, blame for poor unit performance can be blamed on other factors, officers who object will be sidelined or ridiculed, etc. etc.

    A military whose higher ranks are not filled with careerist hacks could fight this, and fight it successfully. But not our current generals and admirals, who have been sucking at the PC teat all their careers. Unfortunately, as the article notes, men (and women) will die because of the rottenness of the institutional culture.

  • BLJ

    If I want a woman in a foxhole next to me I will call Obama.

  • Snorbak

    As a former soldier I can say that women can & often do perform just as well as men, during combat. The exception to this rule is within infantry units.
    I don't care how "unfair" or "prejudiced" you may believe it to be, the reality is that women simply do not have the physical attributes to withstand the rigors of extended & intense ground combat operations.
    In addition, as mentioned in the article, with particular reference to infantry units, human nature, both good (the need to protect women from danger) & bad (sexual prejudice, intimidation, violence) will undermine the cohesion of any mixed fighting unit.
    Combat can be brutal beyond the average persons ability to comprehend & there is absolutely no room for PC niceties, on the battlefield sexual equality will do one thing only, get you & your mates killed.

    • imalert

      Spot on, my sentiments exactly. As for the Israeli women's situation, I hope it is for the women's safety that they are taught to defend their country and themselves, as the reality is that they will get ravaged by the Islamic hordes should Israel's enemies ever be lucky enough to get through Israeli defences. I pray this never happens.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'm not touching this subject with a ten foot pole.

    • Snorbak

      Where's a bunch of rabid feminists when you need them? :-)

    • κατεργάζομαι

      "I'm not touching this subject with a ten foot pole. " – -

      So, that explains all those funny circular bruises all over you! (har)