What Repealing the Combat Exclusion Means for Our Military

As published at Stream.org October 2, 2015

This week was the deadline for the leaders of the armed services to issue their recommendation for opening all combat units to women, though these have not yet been made public and the major media have hardly mentioned it. Repealing the combat ban will not only harm women but weaken our effectiveness in combat.

Photo c/o Stripes.com

Photo c/o Stripes.com

You may think women are already serving in these roles; but there’s a world of difference between the combat zone and direct ground combat. Women have served honorably and well on deployments, but none who has been injured or died was in direct ground combat or on a combat mission. Performing well and bravely when engaged by the enemy is not the same as qualifying for the infantry. Returning fire isn’t combat, nor is surviving an IED on convoy. Combat is the ferocious, dirty and bloody destruction of the enemy at close quarters, often face to face and hand to hand.

Think about our foreign enemies from al Qaeda to the Taliban to ISIS raping and beheading their way across Iraq. Imagine your daughter there, not in support, but going after these bad guys where they live: hard, fast, with the greatest possible violence.

For infantry to achieve their top priority — victory with the fewest casualties — the combat arms require the best of the best, the toughest, strongest and fastest. When speaking of rates of injury or performance, we’re not comparing civilian averages, or military women to civilian men. We’re talking about trained and fit military women compared with not just military men, but the top one percent of military men.

Photo c/o Marines.Mil

Photo c/o Marines.Mil

This is the reality. The Marine Corps’ recent 9-month combat integration testing showed that the female participants had less strength, speed and shooting accuracy, and were injured more than twice as much as men. Coed teams underperformed on nearly 70% of tasks. Since close combat fights are often won on the margins, such disparity could be catastrophic for the units fighting our bloodiest battles at the front. We should be giving them everything they need, and clearing any hindrances from their path, not hobbling them with egalitarian social experiments.

Military women, as tough, smart and able as they are, are not interchangeable with the men at the infantry level. Before even attempting men’s or infantry standards, military women are already experiencing two to ten times the rate of injury as men: feet, ankles, knees, hips, lower back, just to name a few.

What does it matter if one or two women can make the lowest men’s standards if they’re prone to more than twice the injuries and we have to break hundreds just to get those two? That means they’ll need to be replaced much more frequently than men, at great expense to both women and taxpayers. With quotas already demanded by General Dempsey, the military has to ensure not just that a few willing women can get the chance. They must guarantee a steady supply of such women.

A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment is watched as he fires a squad automatic weapon during a training mission near forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan December 15, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson.

Photo c/o REUTERS/Lucas Jackson.

Military service is not a right. No one “deserves” to be able to fight. The combat arms’ raison d’être is not to provide career opportunities, but to fight and win wars. The feminist politicians and military brass pushing this policy frame it as an equality issue because they can’t show that women truly benefit and enhance combat readiness. And because they can’t possibly prove that women can do whatever men can do, they dismiss the empirical data as inherently discriminatory. They want us to believe that women are strong enough for combat units, but too weak to pass men’s standards because of men’s (alleged) attitudes.

Their argument is basically this: we just need more leadership, and then women won’t suffer more than twice the injuries, underperform at 70% of tasks, and distract men. They say that men get passed “just because they’re men,” and women are excluded “just because they’re women.” Nonsense. Replace “men” and “women” with the physical ability each represents. Denser, larger bones, greater strength, stamina, speed and accuracy, much greater muscle-building potential vs. smaller, lighter skeletons, less aerobic capacity, upper body strength, speed, accuracy and stiff limits on the ability to build muscle. There’s no amount of leadership or attitude adjustment in the world that can change biology.

Even if it weren’t so, repealing the ban would still be expensive, untenable and deadly. Women on the front lines are at higher risk of capture and torture as high-value targets. They’re more susceptible to infection, need more accommodations to maintain hygiene, and, to state what ought to be obvious, are uniquely capable of getting pregnant.

Sexual tension and dynamics also dramatically weaken unit cohesion. Consensual or not, the spectrum from flirtation to rape is destructive and expensive enough in non-combat units. They spell calamity for the infantry. It’s not that men and women can’t work together. We can, but we’re not robots. Where the sexes are mixed, those dynamics are always in our faces. Relationships, jealousies, favoritism, fraternization, wanted attention, unwanted attention, sex and all its ramifications: these create emotional roller-coasters to units that are often isolated in remote areas with no privacy and no doors to lock. The combat units need this stuff like a hole in the head.


Photo by Jude Eden, 2004.

War is cruel, demanding and catastrophically dangerous. Women are not excluded out of some arbitrary patriarchal misogyny. It is nature who discriminates. While there may be a few highly atypical women who could pass the elite training, you don’t make policy that affects our national security and the entire population of young females based on the short-term performance of a few individuals.

Military leaders have to make decisions based on the facts on the ground, not on an ideological view of how they would like things to be. There is no job in the combat units that men can’t do, while there are plenty that women can’t do, or can’t do well enough and without lots of injury and other high risks. Where women are needed in the combat zone they are already being utilized and recognized.

Until now, a willingness to face combat reality has kept the combat exclusion in place. In the past the issue has been publicly debated, subject to presidential commissions and congressional oversight. Whenever put to a vote, America has vehemently rejected repeal. Yet all Leon Panetta had to do to enact this policy was to sign a memo. Where’s the outcry in Congress? Our representatives, who have apparently been rolled by political correctness, need to know that we will hold them accountable for subjecting women to conscription and weakening our military in the process.


Ray Mabus Just Can’t Stop Insulting The Marines

Photo c/o Wikipedia

Photo c/o Wikipedia

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus just can’t stop insulting the Marines.  He’s declared he will ignore the results of their 9-month infantry testing to assess Marine women in combat units,  saying: the testing was biased, the women weren’t good enough, there were no standards for combat jobs before, we can’t judge based on averages, the testing wasn’t realistic.[1]  He intends to  open combat units to women regardless of the negative impacts shown and even had the gall to say in his most recent Washington Post op-ed: “Women should be among the few and the proud,” referring to the Marine Corps’ motto, as if women and anyone not in the infantry aren’t already real Marines.  Reality-based infantry testing disproves the claims that women can do anything infantry men can do, so the SecNav insults the testers, the tested and the results.  I describe the historical use of this oft-repeated tactic in a previous article for Military Review.  Mabus could not be a more perfect feminist shill for this gender-political agenda if he had a manual.  The SecNav and the Marines are coming from different angles.  The Marines test and operate based on their priority: combat effectiveness and readiness, and Ray Mabus on his: diversity.


Photo c/o The Marine Corps Times

The testing results showed that all-male teams outperformed coed teams on nearly 70% of tasks.  The females tended to be slower, shot less accurately, suffered more than twice the injuries and struggled with tasks like lifting a 200lb dummy off the field.  One instance described, for example, “When negotiating the wall obstacle, male Marines threw their packs to the top of the wall, whereas female Marines required regular assistance in getting their packs to the top.”

Mabus said that prior to this testing, “There weren’t any standards.”  Actually, he went back and forth on this, first saying there were no standards, then that men were passed who couldn’t make the standards, but when pressed that that should mean we need to raise standards, back-peddled again to say, “No, they need to be set, which they have been now, not necessarily higher.”  He’d have us believe that shooting accurately, scaling walls and long marches with heavy gear, pulling a comrade off the battlefield and other infantry tasks are new measurements of what the infantry has to do, that these standards don’t need to be harder if some men are passed without making them, but other standards should be set so that women can make them… I’m getting dizzy just trying to follow.  These Marines were tested based on current demands made of the combat units and typical tasks they have to perform.  All they did was say, “This is what’s required of us now, see if you can do it.”

Since the female participants couldn’t, Mabus insulted them, saying, “…in terms of the women that volunteered, probably should’ve been a higher bar to cross to get into the experiment.”  To further disqualify the data he said, “…they talk about averages, and the average woman is slower, the average woman can’t carry as much, the average woman isn’t quite as quick on some jobs or some tasks. The other way to look at it is, we’re not looking for average.”  But the female participants certainly weren’t average females, and they were not just average female Marines.  They were top performers who had at least if not better than a third-class men’s PFT (physical fitness test), and with few exceptions had passed the Marines’ enlisted infantry – an accomplishment touted as proving women are equal to infantry men and ready for combat.  The Marine Corps Times reported that the female participants “tended to be athletic, with high scores on the PFT and combat fitness tests.”  Watch this video about one of them and tell me if she looks average to you.

It’s not that these women weren’t good enough, it’s that they couldn’t prove a lie.  We can be very proud of these women for their ability and accomplishments.  They are inspirational.  They are the sorts of women we want and want more of in our military and on deployments.  They are already utilized where they’re needed most, moving up the ranks, and recognized for their achievements.  But military women, even top performers, aren’t interchangeable with infantry men.  Averaging more than twice the injuries means they’ll have to be replaced much more frequently than men as this policy is implemented and women have to maintain combat standards over months of continuous training and deployments.   CaptureCplJenniferRocha1It’s not enough to make the lowest men’s standard, or even to pass the enlisted infantry or the Ranger’s leadership course.  Mabus said, “Averages have no relevance to the abilities and performance of individual Marines,” but the opposite is true.  They’re absolutely relevant when you have to not only prove one or two can do it, but guarantee a predictable, continuing stream of qualified females who can make and maintain those standards in order to fill the quotas mandated by General Dempsey.[2]  Right now we have to break hundreds of women just to get one or two who can make it through finite training evolutions.  We can assume that these negative results will be multiplied many times in the heat of actual battle.  What does it matter if one or two can make the lowest of the men’s standards if they have more than twice the rate of injury, many more high risks besides, and a limit on how much muscle mass they can gain to improve their strength?  It’s simply a bad investment.

“…[T]here are ways to mitigate this so you can have the same combat effectiveness, the same lethality,” Mabus tells us.  But how do you offset failure in 70% of required tasks? On a combat mission, if someone gets injured or killed, his brothers have to get him off the field and assume his duties.  Brute strength, especially upper body strength, is at a premium, and men are basically limitless in the muscle mass they can gain.  While the results showed women were a benefit to decision-making, can they really relegate women to the couple of cerebral tasks at which they tend to excel?  It won’t work, and hardly makes up for the many other negative impacts.  The results also showed that – surprise!  Women were distracting to the men.  As a Marine infantryman with three tours put it to me, “The only purpose of the infantry unit is to win battles and all other things are at best of secondary importance.  What ever policies maximize unit combat effectiveness, no matter how politically inconvenient, are the policies that should be in place.  When push comes to shove, that 5-10-30% extra combat efficiency may mean the difference between our nation facing a future threat or being defeated by it.”

Capture3Mabus tells us a diverse force is a stronger one.  “When we talk about diversity, we mean the full spectrum of demographics, but even more important, we mean diversity of thinking.”  Assuming all men think the same is its own misconception.  Regardless, putting women in these units guarantees diversity in the spectrum of ability, from able to unable.  Diversity in the spectrum of more to fewer injuries, and greater to less risk.  This is going to get more of both sexes killed.

Policy of this magnitude should not be made based on the performance of one or two individuals, especially when it affects not just all military women who volunteered for service, but all of America’s young able women who haven’t.  The combat exclusion is what makes drafting women unconstitutional, because the draft is specifically for preparing combat troops.  Those who scoff that enactment of the draft is unlikely should look to all the other unprecedented things the Obama administration has done.  That is why in the past this issue has been the subject of presidential commissions, hearings and congressional oversight.  Our representatives should be held accountable for subjecting our daughters to conscription.  All Leon Panetta had to do was sign a memo.  Whenever Americans have been faced with this question before, they’ve voted No.  Will we let some Obama-appointed bureaucrats determine this for all women?

The Marines have always been the hold-outs on opening combat and combat-related jobs to women, and for good reason.  It’s not because they’re sexist, it’s because they know what killing the enemy face to face on the ground requires.  Many support the idea of women in combat because they are supportive of women in general.  Until they watch their own daughters register for service, they won’t put much thought into what ground combat requires and what the additional costs and risks to women are that make this not just an unsound investment, but one that puts women, men, and our national defense, at greater peril.

General Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps testimony before the SASC on Women in Combat. June 1991.


[1] http://www.npr.org/2015/09/11/439381272/navy-secretary-ray-mabus-takes-issue-with-marine-combat-study and http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/09/16/mabus-no-exceptions-to-keep-women-out-of-marines-seals.html

[2] “[The combat units] must make sure that there are a sufficient number of females entering the career field and already assigned to the related commands and leadership positions.” http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5183

MeJude Eden served in the Marine Corps from 2004-2008 as an 0651, Data Communications, and was stationed at Camp Lejeune.  She deployed with 8th Communications Bn to support Camp Fallujah’s computer communications for 8 months in 2005-6, and was also assigned checkpoint duty working with the Marine Infantry frisking women for explosives outside the wire.

Wolves Among the Sheep

Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Syrian refugees entering Turkey

The open-border and refugee crises and our handling of them is not a question of loving vs. hateful, it’s suicide vs. self-preservation.  Where there is opportunity, the bad will come with the good.  That’s why our immigration process and enforcing legal immigration laws are so critical.  If the Obama administration is demanding now that we take in however many tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, how will we vet them?  Where will they stay while they’re being vetted?  Add to this Obama’s next round of executive-ordered amnesty for the however-many tens of thousands of illegal immigrants already here.  It’s a big uncompassionate mess.

When I think of the immigration process my husband went through to become a citizen, he had a background check to ensure he wasn’t a criminal; he was medically tested and immunized to ensure he wasn’t carrying disease; he had to declare his intention of embracing America’s constitution, language and values (taking an oath much similar to the one our military and representatives take).  When you immigrate to any country, you must prove you’re not a threat and that you’re there for the right reasons.  This is good.  It’s compassionate.  It protects both citizen and immigrant.  It sets both up for success.

Much as we may want to help, to throw open the doors to our communities without care and consideration would be reckless.  For all the hard-working illegal immigrants or the sincere, authentic refugees seeking asylum, there are bad actors.  We don’t know why any new-comer is here until we ask them and verify.  All it takes is one bad actor to reap disaster.  A radical with a machine-gun on a train, for example.  Legal immigration and enforcing our laws protects citizen and immigrant alike.  The Syrian refugee crisis requires some similar process.  There’s only one way to welcome the good and sift out the bad: by controlling the flow and vetting all who enter.

The legal immigration system is only broken in the sense that the current laws aren’t enforced, our border is a sieve, and the government bureaucracy can’t handle the numbers it has now, letting in the likes of the Tsarnaev brothers (who were refugees, by the way) despite repeated warnings and red flags.  If our government alternately refuses to or can’t deal with our current illegal immigration problem, what’s going to happen when we add tens of thousands of Syrian refugees?

Women and Hand-to-Hand Combat: Thoughts From a Female Black Belt Marine Fallujah Veteran

The author before heading out on convoy to checkpoint duty, Fallujah, 2005.

The author before heading out on convoy to checkpoint duty, Fallujah, 2005.

Being in direct combat units means being the ones who take the fight to the enemy.  Deploying in itself is not combat, and neither is returning fire when getting shot at on convoy.  Real combat, the kind the infantry and Special Forces wage, is bloody, vicious and offensive.  When we’re talking about opening the combat units to women, we’re talking direct ground combat units who don’t have the comfort and distance of the fighter-plane cockpit.  Marine Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer describes being attacked by an insurgent, fighting and killing him with his bare hands.  In Baghdad they were hand-to-hand, men facing each other with knives.

I’ve fought many men over the years as I trained to earn a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and dabbled in Kapoeira and Krav Maga before the Marines, and achieved three of the five levels of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program which incorporates the best of all forms for hand-to-hand combat.  This isn’t a lot in terms of learning to fight for your life.  Training by fighting men before the Marines helped me to be a better fighter against women of my own weight and rank.  But women are at a disadvantage fighting men, especially those that actually want to capture or kill them.

RhondaRouseyEven the toughest female fighter in the world, UFC Bantamweight champion Rhonda Rousey said as much when the issue came up of fighting Fallon Fox, formerly a man, citing “the bone structure, the muscular structure of a man [after puberty]. There’s no ‘undo’ button for that.”  Tamikka Brents, a female who actually did fight Fox, said, “I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right.”  To put females at the front where they are much more likely to have to engage in hand to hand combat with men is barbaric, not empowering to women.  When I joined, I wanted to go to the front.  Being outside the wire the reality of having to fight in close contact looms large, and the enemy we were facing then seems somewhat docile compared to ISIS today.  There was a chance I would face them. In the combat roles, it’s not a chance, it’s probable, and today’s enemy uses meth.  Fighting ISIS on meth hand-to-hand.  It’s every girl’s dream, right?

“Shouldn’t taking that risk be a woman’s choice?” I hear this question a lot.  A woman in this position is not isolated, she is not just taking a risk for herself.  She’s putting everyone around her at greater risk, in no small part because her torture can be used against the men in a way it can’t with other men.  They’re natural instinct to protect her can distract him from the mission resulting in disaster.  This is exactly what the Israelis found out in 1948 when they included women on the front lines of combat.  The men dropped everything at the women’s screams, and the Israelis declared the experiment a disaster and a failure. Contrary to the myth that radical Islamists are averse to fighting women, the Israelis found that their enemy fought more viciously because the prospect of defeat by women was so abjectly humiliating.

Capture and torture is every deploying woman’s worst nightmare, and all that advocates for women in combat can say is that it’s not fair we want to protect women more than men at the front, that we’re wrong to consider a woman being tortured worse than a man being tortured.  It may not be fair that the ability to bear children makes women more vulnerable than men, but it does.  It may not be fair that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to brute strength, but we are.  These warrant added protection, and there’s nothing feminism can do to change it.  Regardless, the policy will get more of both killed.  It’s not that we’re weak, shrinking violets.  Rhonda Rousey sure isn’t, and neither am I.  But it’s not enlightened, sophisticated or evolved to ignore our differences, differences that can mean the difference between life and death on the battlefield.

CNN Spot: 2 Females Graduate Ranger School – Why Maintain the Combat Exclusion?

I had the opportunity to discuss why putting women into the combat units is bad policy on CNN today:

Let me count the ways in brief. (I go in depth on many of these here.)

When one group predictably has the lowest upper body strength and a much higher rate of injury, putting them in the combat units adds weakness, not strength.  When standards have been consistently lowered every time military jobs are opened to women, we can trust they will continue to be, formally or informally, as active duty men and women are pressured to show the success the top brass demands in order to fulfill their gender politics agenda.  Needless to say, lowering our military training standards adds weakness, not strength.  When adding one group to the other creates sexual dynamics that are distracting at the least and destructive at the worst and that don’t exist for men by themselves, that’s adding weakness, not strength.  When one group needs many more accommodations that cost additional money, material and resources and add on to standard operating procedures, it adds weakness, not strength.  When one group has much higher potential to be yanked from the field for non-war related issues from infection to pregnancy, adding them to the combat units adds weakness, not strength.  When one group is a higher value target to the enemy, putting them into the units raises the risk for everyone, adding weakness, not strength.  When men are naturally more protective of those high-value targets – a wonderful primal instinct we do NOT want to curb – adding women to the units adds weakness, not strength.

These are all things that activists for women in combat and those who think they are forward-thinking good feminists brush off as nothing, myths, remnants of archaic patriarchal misogyny in need of re-education and attitude adjustment.  They studiously ignore the concerns voiced by infantry veterans who know what it takes to win at ground combat, and what hinders their success. They studiously ignore the harm to women and the fact that most enlisted women do not want to be assigned to the combat units.  The standards aren’t set high to purposely keep women out, they are high to sift out all weakness that obstructs the goal: victory in war with the least casualties possible.  Opposition to women in combat units is not about traditional roles, suppressing women or hanging on to a bygone era.  Women don’t strengthen combat, they weaken it, obviously and predictably. Our men want the strongest combat units possible with the least amount of unnecessary risk so they and their brethren are more likely to come home alive in victory.  They naturally balk at being told that weakness is strength, that it’s just their attitude that needs adjusting.

Ironically, the Diversity commission and other women-in-combat activists pushing gender politics in the military will defeat their own purpose by opening the combat units.  Fewer and fewer women will have long-term military careers as they suffer more and more injuries and have to medically retire out of service.  Fewer will re-enlist in order to preserve their health and well being.  Because of the prospect of being assigned to a combat unit, especially as we’re seeing what ISIS is doing to Christians, women, children, and anyone who doesn’t share their zealotry, women who could otherwise be of great service to the military in non-combat roles will no longer consider joining, and the left will lose its battle of equal representation for women anyway.

Morning Convoy, Fallujah 2005.

Morning Convoy, Fallujah 2005.

New York Times’ Opinion: Maintain the Combat Exclusion for Women in the Military

As published in the New York Times “Room for Debate” on women serving in combat roles.

As a female Marine combat veteran of the Iraq war, or just as someone with common sense, I urge Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to maintain the combat exclusion. We need our combat units to be the most lethal fighting force our tax dollars can buy. Adding women creates more danger for everyone and risks compromising missions.

Men make the infantry standards all the time. Women fail to make them a lot of the time.

Even on lower fitness standards, women have far higher rates of injury, illness, non-availability, non-deployability and attrition than men. Commanders of coed units know too well the added burdens of trying to juggle sexual dynamics, accommodations, relationships, fraternization, rape, pregnancy, hygiene and much more while maintaining troop welfare and good order and discipline, let alone mission accomplishment. These are liabilities that can result in mission failure and high casualties in the combat units, all to satisfy a tiny group of women selfishly petitioning for their own career advancement.

ISIS doesn’t care that our military has met its diversity quota and broken the so-called brass ceiling. They will see our self-imposed weaknesses and exploit them to cause as much damage as possible. That’s precisely what happened to the group of female Marines who served on entry checkpoint duty two months before I did in Fallujah in June, 2005. Insurgents targeted their convoy almost certainly because they were transporting females. They laid an ambush that began with a bomb and ended in a firefight. Three American servicewomen died (one was a single mother) and several others suffered horrendous injuries. They hadn’t made and maintained the infantry standards to be there — they were just attached to the infantry by day. Women are targeted as easy marks because their capture and torture devastate American morale, further hindering our ability to fight our enemies.

Women can serve their country in all sorts of noble capacities and enjoy long and lofty military careers. Maintaining the combat exclusion doesn’t take anything away from them. It elevates and protects women and empowers the combat units to succeed in fighting America’s vicious enemies.

Women in Combat: The Question of Standards

As published in Military Review, the Professional Journal of the U.S. Army, March-April 2015 edition.

Are women in the military discouraged from training to meet the men’s standards? Is this why all women have washed out of the Marine Corps’ Officer Infantry Course? That is one of the charges female Marine 1st Lt. Sage Santangello makes in a March 2014 article for The Washington Post. One of the 29 women, as of this writing, who have failed the course, she says,

I believe that I could pass, and that other women could pass, if the standards for men and women were equal from the beginning of their time with the Marines, if endurance and strength training started earlier than the current practice for people interested in going into the infantry, and if women were allowed a second try, as men are. …

Women aren’t encouraged to establish the same mental toughness as men—rather, they’re told that they can’t compete. Men, meanwhile, are encouraged to perceive women as weak.1

This always seems to happen. As traditionally male military occupational specialties (MOSs) are opened to women, the standards are questioned and maligned as unfairly discriminatory as women’s inability to achieve them is exposed.

Development of Double Standards

Double standards were developed because every time women are tested they prove that they cannot consistently achieve men’s standards, and that they suffer many more injuries than men in the attempt. Proponents pushing more military opportunities for women have never insisted women achieve the men’s standards because their lack of qualification would mean fewer women in the ranks. They could not achieve the standards when the military academies first were integrated. In his 1998 book Women in the Military: Flirting with Disaster, Army veteran Brian Mitchell cites results for physical testing at West Point and Annapolis:

When 61 percent [of female West Point plebes] failed a complete physical test, compared to 4.8 percent of male plebes, separate standards where devised for the women. Similar adjustments were made to other standards. At Annapolis, a two-foot stepping stool was added to an indoor obstacle course to enable women to surmount an eight-foot wall.2

Mitchell also reports that when women were integrated into the Air Force’s Cadet Wing,

the [Air Force] academy’s physical fitness test included push-ups, pull-ups, a standing broad jump, and six hundred-yard run, but since very few of the women could perform one pull-up or complete any of the other events, different standards were devised for them. They were allowed more time for the run, less distance on the jump, and fewer pushups. Instead of pull-ups, female cadets were given points for the length of time they could hang on the bar … . They fell out of group runs, lagged behind on road marches, failed to negotiate obstacles on the assault courses (later modified to make them easier), could not climb a rope … . The women averaged eight visits to the medical clinic; the men averaged only 2.5 visits … . On the average, women suffered nine times as many shin splints as men, five times as many stress fractures, and more than five times as many cases of tendinitis.3

By this time the Army was further along with integrating women but was faced with a problem. There were no standards based on MOS requirements so recruits were assigned to jobs based only on passing the physical fitness test in basic training. The Army had the right number of females allotted to newly opened heavy-lifting jobs. However, the women could not do the heavy lifting, they suffered higher rates of injury, and their numbers attrited at higher rates. Therefore, the Army developed an objective standard to test recruits and “match the physical capacity of its soldiers with Military Occupational Specialty requirements.”4 Introduced in 1981, the Military Entrance Physical Strength Capacity Test (MEPSCAT) tested lifting capabilities based on MOS demands as light, medium, moderately heavy, heavy (over 50lbs) and very heavy (100lbs). “In the heavy lifting category, 82 percent of men and 8 percent of women qualified.”5

This is catastrophic in terms of mission readiness. According to a 1985 Army report entitled Evaluation of the Military Entrance Physical Strength Capacity Test, “if MEPSCAT had been a mandatory selection requirement during 1984, the Army would have created a substantial shortfall in the moderately heavy category (required lift is 80 pounds) by rejecting 32 percent of the female accessions.”6

In her 2000 book The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America’s Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? Stephanie Gutmann reports that a member of the Defense Advisory Committee for Women in The Services responded to this data by casting the familiar pall of unfair discrimination and sexism: “The Army is a male-oriented institution and officials are resistant to changes that will allow women to be fully utilized. … Those [strength] standards reeked of that resistance.”7 The MEPSCAT testing standard was never adopted because it exposed women’s lack of qualification for the jobs newly opened to them and to which they were already being assigned. Using that standard would have resulted in significantly less female representation in newly opened MOSs, so MEPSCAT was derided and summarily dispatched.

Those pushing women into combat today are no more able than their predecessors to show that women can meet the men’s standards, let alone the men’s combat standards. The Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization, published a report in October 2014 analyzing data collected by the U.S. Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM).8 The command tested 409 male and 379 female Marine volunteers in several combat-related tasks in 2013.9 Examples of the test data highlighted in the Center’s report include the clean-and-press, the 155 mm artillery lift-and-carry, and the obstacle course wall-with-assist-box.10

According to the center, “the clean-and-press event involves single lifts of progressively heavier weights from the ground to above the head (70, 80, 95, [and] 115 lb.), plus 6 rep[etition]s with a 65 lb. weight. In this event, the center reports that 80% of the men passed the 115 lb. test, but only 8.7 percent of the women passed.”11

The Center reports that

in the 155 mm artillery lift-and-carry, a test simulating ordnance stowing, volunteers had to pick up a 95 lb. artillery round and carry it 50 meters in under 2 minutes. Noted the [Marine Corps] report, ‘Less than 1 percent of men, compared to 28.2 percent of women, could not complete the 155 mm artillery round lift-and-carry in the allotted time.’ If trainees had to ‘shoulder the round and/or carry multiple rounds, the 28.2 percent failure rate would increase.’12


on the obstacle course wall-with-assist-box test, a 20-inch high box (used to simulate a helping hand) essentially reduced the height of the 7 ft. foot wall to approximately 5’4.” Quoting the [Marine Corps] report, ‘Less than 1.2% of the men could not get over the obstacle course wall using an assist box, while wearing [protective equipment] … [compared to] 21.32% of women who could not get over the obstacle course wall.13

 Natural Differences

There is a reason to this rhyme and her name is Nature. She has given us decades of data for a track record. It’s not changing even though women are participating in more sports and body building than ever.  To complete the same physically demanding task, a woman expends much more effort than a man (no fair!). A man’s bones are denser, his heart is bigger making his aerobic capacity greater, and he is able to develop much more lean muscle mass. He can carry more weight and run farther and faster with it. His units of work effort are worth many of hers, and he will be able to maintain a demanding, arduous level of performance for far longer than she in both the short and long term. Double standards did not create this reality; they are response to it (and to political pressure to open more jobs to women). Kingsley Browne writes in his 2007 book Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars,

When males and females both start out in good physical condition, women gain less than men from further conditioning, so that the gap between the sexes actually increases. A study of male and female cadets at West Point, who all started out in relatively good condition, found that although women’s upper body strength was initially 66 percent of men’s, by the end of their first two years, it had dropped below 60 percent … .14

 Moreover, Browne writes,

Sex differences in physical performance are here to stay. As Constance Holden observed in Science magazine, the male advantage in athletics will endure, due to men’s ‘steady supply of a performance-enhancing drug that will never be banned: endogenous testosterone.’15

In other words, a platoon of the top female CrossFitters  is still no match for a platoon of the top male CrossFitters. It does not matter that one individual female CrossFitter may be stronger and faster than one particular male.  The idea that one woman somewhere might someday be able to make the infantry standard is totally inadequate to justify putting women in the units. Women have to be able to consistently and predictably make and maintain the men’s standards in order to demonstrate equal ability and be useful in combat.

Even on a lower general standard, women break at far higher rates than men, with longer-term injuries. More women leave the military, when or before their contracts are up. Women are regularly unavailable for duty for female issues. Chicago Tribune correspondent Kirsten Scharnberg reports in a 2005 article that women suffer post-traumatic stress disorder more acutely.16 The combat “opportunity” is sounding less and less equal all the time.

In his 2013 book Deadly Consequences: How Cowards Are Pushing Women Into Combat, retired Army col. Robert Maginnis describes several studies showing the physical suffering of women in combat:

  1. A U.S. Navy study found the risk of anterior cruciate ligament injury associated with military training is almost ten times higher for women than for men. 2. A sex-blind study by the British military found that women were injured 7.5 times more often than men while training to the same standards. … 5. Women suffer twice as many lower-extremity injuries as men, an Army study found, and they fatigue much more quickly because of the difference in ‘size of muscle,’ which makes them more vulnerable to non-battle injury.17

Marine Cpt. Katie Petronio writes of Officer Candidate School, “of candidates who were dropped from training because they were injured or not physically qualified, females were breaking at a much higher rate than males, 14 percent versus 4 percent. The same trends were seen at TBS [the Basic School] in 2011; the attrition rate for females was 13 percent versus 5 percent for males, and 5 percent of females were found not physically qualified compared with 1 percent of males.”18

We females can train as hard as we like, and we may increase strength, stamina, and fitness. But our increased fitness still will not put us on par with that of the men who are training to their utmost, like men in combat units and the Special Forces. They are the top ten percent of the top ten percent. We also bear too many other risks to be cost effective.  No matter how widespread feminism becomes, our bones will always be lighter, more vulnerable to breaks and fractures. Our aerobic capacity will still be 20 to 40 percent less, and we will still be less able to bear heavy gear at a hard-pounding run. It is not for lack of training. Throughout 2013, the female recruits going through Marine Corps boot camp were being trained to achieve the men’s minimum pull-up standard. They were trained to pass the test, yet 55 percent of them could not make that minimum, according to an Associated Press report.19 Ninety-nine percent of male recruits can, whether or not they were particularly athletic before shipping off to boot camp.

Can women scale the eight-foot wall in full combat load without steps? No steps are provided to give women a boost in the heat of battle, as they are in coed military boot camps (and even the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School). Santangello boasts that she performed 16 pull-ups on her last physical fitness test. That is excellent, but the test is done in a t-shirt and shorts, it is a test only of general fitness, and it is far less strenuous than infantry training, let alone combat. Can women do a dozen pull-ups in full combat gear? That is just one of many requirements in the Combat Endurance Test (CET). Can women carry another man on their backs with a full 80 lb. combat load? These differences in ability are deal breakers in combat—that is why these standards are not arbitrary. The military has yet to see the so-called “push-button war” that activists cite as mitigating for women’s lesser physical strength. Our combat units have often been on foot with their heavy loads in the rough mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. The high infantry standards are designed to keep the weak out because accommodating the weak means lives lost and mission failure. The standards of the Officer Infantry Course are high because infantry officers must not only be educated, brave, and highly athletic. They also must be better at everything than the members of their units because Marine officers lead from the front. Hence their motto: Ductus Exemplo, leadership by example.

In the Pentagon briefing to announce the repeal of the combat exclusion, Leon Panetta stated that women are “serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield,” and that men and women are “fighting and dying together.” However, serving in critical roles and dying in the combat zone do not equate to proving equal infantry capabilities.  Noticeably omitted by advocates for women in combat is that the women who have been injured or died in Iraq and Afghanistan were not in the combat zone having passed the infantry’s standards. We honor their sacrifice, but we acknowledge that they were part of support units who went through whatever pre-deployment workups their leadership gave them (and these can vary greatly). Being in the combat zone, dangerous as it is, is still worlds away from the door-kicking offensive missions of our combat units. Yet, advocates for women in combat are willing to keep women on a lower standard as they push for re-evaluation. USA Today correspondent Jim Michaels reports, “Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law center, says the Marines should re-evaluate the standards before putting women through.”20 In a recent article, U.S. Army Reserve Col. Ellen Haring opines that the CET, which women routinely find impossible to pass, is merely an initiation rite, not comparable measurement for infantry suitability, and therefore passing it should be abandoned as a formal standard.21

Claims of Discrimination

Lt. Santangello wants us to believe that something other than women’s ability is the reason they are not making the infantry’s standards. It is not women’s fault that 92 percent of them cannot do the 115-lb clean-and-press; it is because men are victimizing brutes. If only this sexism and discrimination did not exist, women would be able to carry heavier loads for long distances over rough terrains at a fast clip without getting four times the injuries. She claims that not offering women a second try through Officer Infantry Course equals discrimination. That is not true. The only officers, male or female, who get a chance to remediate and try the course again are those slated for an infantry unit, as Marine Lt. Emma Stokein explains in a piece called “The Mission Goes First: Female Marines and the Infantry.”22 Since combat units are still closed to women, they do not get a second try because this delays their job training and pushes back Marines waiting their first turn.  She and all the other non-infantry men who are not allowed a second try are discriminated against based on their MOS, not their sex. Letting her try the course again, which then Commandant Gen. James F. Amos did after Santangello published her article, was applying a double standard. She asks that the rules and standards be ignored and that she get special treatment because she is a woman. That is quite a start for an officer claiming to want equal treatment, and wanting to lead men in combat. Does she want men to follow her example? Once she is head of a platoon, will she expect the men and women she leads to follow her example?

Another claim she makes is the Marine Corps’ deliberate discouragement of women to train hard. This one does not ring true to me because it is so antithetical to my own experience and observations as a female Marine. In my four year enlistment, 2004 to 2008, no one ever told me (or anyone around me whom I knew of) that I could not compete because I was a woman, nor anything like it. They would not have dared. They were too worried about being politically correct since an off-color joke overheard by a third party is enough for a sexual harassment claim. Maybe I just had an exceptional experience to have made it through four years from Parris Island to Iraq unscathed by all those Neanderthals. No one ever discouraged me from training enough, and they did not have to encourage me to train more. I already pushed myself the hardest, including plenty of supplementary training so that I would not be the weakest link. Proving the feminist’s lie that men and women are interchangeable takes a lot of extra work. When I was at Camp Lejeune’s gym most days a week, I never noticed any shortage of women. Women compete in sports at the highest levels, and today CrossFit, mud runs, and Iron Man (Iron Woman!) triathlons are all the rage. Was Santangello powerless in 2013 to shore up her own weaknesses if additional conditioning was all it took? Why does a strong, young college hockey player with the guts to join the Marines, the ability to become an officer, and such a strong desire to see women in combat that she would try out for the infantry then wilt at (alleged) discouragement from anyone? How was she able to get so far? Herein lies the usual riddle of feminist dogma shared by nearly all those pushing women into combat: Women are as strong as men, but women are victims of men. They are not strong enough to prevent rape stateside, but they are sure-as-hell ready to go hand-to-hand with members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

I also reject Santangello’s charge that men in the military are encouraged to perceive women as weak. If anything, they are encouraged, at peril of ending their careers, to make themselves believe that women and men are interchangeable. Those who do not sing that tune are charged with waging the “war on women.” In my experience, feminism and political correctness are so prevalent in the military that men trip over themselves trying to ensure they do not offend. Military leaders cannot afford to even think the truth: Women are not as strong and athletic as strong, athletic men. It is biology and physics. It is Nature. Most important, it is consistent and predictable. Women’s biology makes them a deficit in combat. Those who insist combat units should be opened to women can never prove it’s a real benefit because of all the persistent issues.  They can only institute a mandatory double-think.

For the sake of women’s career opportunities, the old tougher standards have already been lowered or abandoned over the decades. Gone are the long jump and the 40-yard man-carry. Training tasks are long-since team-oriented, where individual weaknesses are camouflaged by the group, so the two-person (one dare not call it “two-man”) stretcher-carry is now a four-person stretcher-carry. Between lower standards for women and political correctness that sees making war-fighting men out of boys as abuse, the results are a lower standard of performance overall. Panetta and Dempsey continued this decades-old tradition at the January 2013 Pentagon briefing to discuss ending the combat exclusion. Dempsey said “if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?”23

That seems a fantastically obtuse question for a military leader to ask, especially in a time of war. Yet it makes complete sense through the lens of feminist activism because Dempsey also said the military “must make sure that there are a sufficient number of females entering the career field and already assigned to the related commands and leadership positions.”24 The decree demands that the testing and implementation are done simultaneously by January 2016. The burden should be on supporters of women in combat to prove women can make and maintain the infantry and Special Forces standards as they are, and only after that should they proceed to discuss the parameters in which women might be effectively used more in combat operations. Instead, the Department of Defense has put the onus on the units, who are also under pressure to prove they are diverse and not sexist by having the correct number of women. Next year’s budget may depend on it. And what happens in this kind of climate as military budgets are being slashed? The Army recently cut 20,000 from its ranks. Where everything is measured against Diversity and “equal career opportunity for women” over mission readiness, we can assume quotas of women will continue to be filled while more qualified men are cut.

The Need for High Standards

Of the myriad of superb reasons to maintain the combat exclusion—such as additional hygiene needs and risks, sex, rape, risk of capture, pregnancy, unit cohesion, broken homes, and abandoned children to name a few—women’s inability to make the infantry standards is simply the first and most obvious. It is the wall women-in-combat activists cannot scale without a step box, if you will.

Meanwhile, the argument to maintain the combat exclusion makes itself easily in every aspect. Including women in combat units is bad for combat, bad for women, bad for men, bad for children, bad for the country. The argument for the combat exclusion is provable all the time, every time. Political correctness has no chance against Nature. Her victories are staring us in the face at all times. The men just keep being able to lift more and to run faster, harder, longer with more weight on their backs while suffering fewer injuries. They just keep never getting pregnant. The combat units have needs that women cannot meet. Women have needs that life in a combat unit cannot accommodate without accepting significant disadvantage and much greater expense. Where 99 percent of men can do the heavy-lifting tasks typical of gunners, but 85 percent of women cannot, there is no gap women need to fill. Women are already utilized where they are needed in the combat zone, such as for intelligence gathering, or what I did, frisking women for explosives. There is nothing going on in the infantry that men cannot do and for which they need women. Panetta said women are “serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield. The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.”25 Women have honorably served in the combat zone, but not on the infantry’s standards, on door-kicking missions. Let us be honest. Panetta’s words are spin, not exactly the stuff combat commanders’ dreams are made of when it comes to building the tip of the spear.

Military women are strong, tough, and dedicated in their own right. We do not need to be in the combat units to prove we are important or to serve honorably and well, and we do not need to be there to gain career opportunities. Women have achieved some of the highest levels of military leadership without entering combat units. The United States is at war with child-raping, honor-killing, suicide-bombing, amputation-happy savages that are beheading and raping their way across Iraq and Afghanistan, not limited by rules of engagement or Diversity metrics. The high male standards of U.S. military forces exist so that the Nation can be victorious against its enemies with the fewest casualties possible. We should see attempts to jettison high standards as detrimental to all, and we should soundly reject them.


  1. Sage Santangello, “Fourteen women have tried, and failed, the Marines’ Infantry Officer Course. Here’s why.” The Washington Post, (March 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fourteen-women-have-tried-and-failed-the-marines-infantry-officer-course-heres-why/2014/03/28/24a83ea0-b145-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html.
  2. Brian Mitchell, Women in the Military: Flirting With Disaster, (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998), 58. Mitchell is referencing Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, Project Athena: Report on the Admission of Women to the U.S. Military Academy, vols. I-IV (West Point, N.Y.: U.S. Military Academy, 1 June 1979)
  3. Mitchell, 42. Mitchell also cites Lois B. DeFleur, David Gillman, and William Marshak,

“The Development of Military Professionalism Among Male and Female Air Force Academy Cadets,” 168. Upon entry, cadets were given physical aptitude tests. Males averaged eleven pull-ups. Females averaged 24.1 seconds on the “flexed arm hang.”  Mitchell also cites Lois B. DeFleur, David Gillman, and William Marshak, “Sex Integration of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Changing Roles for Women,” Armed Forces and Society, August 1978, 615.

  1. Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Women in the Army Policy Review (Washington, D.C., 12 November 1982) 9.
  2. Ibid, 2-16.
  3. Force Systems Directorate, Evaluation of the Military Entrance Physical Strength Capacity Test (Bethesda, MD, 1985) v.
  4. Stephanie Gutmann, The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America’s Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? (New York: Scribner, 2000) 254.
  5. Center for Military Readiness, “U.S. Marine Corps Research Findings: Where is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?” Center for Military Readiness, Livonia, MI, (October 2014) vi, http://cmrlink.org/data/sites/85/CMRDocuments/InterimCMRSpecRpt-100314.pdf.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Kingsley Browne, Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars, (New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007) 24. Browne cites Phillip Bishop, Kirk Cureton, and Mitchell Collins, “Sex Difference in Muscular Strength in Equally Trained Women,” Ergonomics 30, no. 4 (1987):675-687.
  12. Browne, 26. Browne cites Constance Holden, “An Everlasting Gender Gap?” Science 305, no. 5684 (July 2004): 639–640.
  13. Kirsten Scharnberg, “Stresses of Battle Hit Female GIs Hard,” Chicago Tribune, 20 March 2005,

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2005-03-20/news/0503200512_1_ptsd-female-veterans-female-troops. Scharnberg writes, “And studies indicate that many of these women suffer from more pronounced and debilitating forms of PTSD [post-traumatic stress] than men.”

  1. Robert L. Maginnis, Deadly Consequences: How Cowards Are Pushing Women Into Combat, (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2013) 122.
  2. Katie Petronio, “Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal,” Marine Corps Gazette 97:3, March 2013, https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2013/03/get-over-it-we-are-not-all-created-equal.
  3. Associated Press, “Half of Female Marines Fail 3-Pullup Requirement,” 2 January 2014, available at CBSNews.com, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-female-soldiers-fail-3-pullup-requirement/ .
  4. Jim Michaels, “First Marine Ladies Head To Infantry Training in Quantico,” Business Insider.com 3 October 2012, http://www.businessinsider.com/first-marine-ladies-head-to-infantry-training-in-quantico-2012-10.
  5. Ellen Haring, “Can Women Be Infantry Marines?”, Charlie Mike blog, War on the Rocks.com, entry posted 29 May 2014 at War On the Rocks.com, http://warontherocks.com/2014/05/can-women-be-infantry-marines/#_. Haring writes, “the Combat Endurance Test serves as an initiation rite and not a test of occupational qualification. Do initiation rites have a place in our military? … Let’s call it what it is—a challenging initiation into an elite group that prides itself on being tough, resilient, and loyal to the foundational beliefs of this country.”
  6. Emma Stokien, “The Mission Goes First: Female Marines And The Infantry,” Charlie Mike blog, War on the Rocks.com, entry posted 3 June 2014, http://warontherocks.com/2014/06/the-mission-goes-first-female-marines-and-the-infantry/#_. Stokien writes, “Women still cannot be assigned as 0302 infantry officers even if they pass the course. … eventually marines not bound for the infantry must be trained for and perform the jobs they have been assigned to fulfill the needs of the Marine Corps. Attempting and reattempting IOC [Infantry Officer Course] can take the better part of a year on top of an already long training pipeline.”
  7. Former Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey, quoted in Claudette Roulo, “Defense Department Expands Women’s Combat Role,” news transcript of press briefing from the Pentagon, 24 January 2013 http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=5183.
  1. Ibid.
  2. Ibid.


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