Combat: Testosterone Required (More Than Ever)

Are double standards and endemic discouragement of women to train hard to blame for the fact that women continue to wash out of the Marine Corps’ Officer Infantry Course? That is the charge of female Marine Lt. Sage Santangello in an article for the Washington Times. 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.”

Can she do a dozen pull-ups in all this gear? Photo c/o misguidedchildren.com

Can she do a dozen pull-ups in all this gear? Photo c/o misguidedchildren.com

I absolutely agree that the military should have one standard from the beginning, and it should be the men’s higher standards.  The tiers could remain – higher standards for combat military occupational specialties (MOSs) and support units, appropriately lower for the rest – but within each, women making the higher men’s standard.  It would be optimal for military efficiency and readiness (not to mention the most effective use of our tax dollars), but most women wouldn’t make it into the military in the first place. And although their caliber would be higher for having to pass and maintain higher standards, the ones who did make it would suffer far higher rates of injury (currently 4-10 times those of men, even on lowered standards) and attrition than we already do. We’d see women promoting more slowly, having shorter and fewer military careers, and the percentage serving would drop from 20% to 5% or less. The quality of women serving would be higher, the quantity would be lower, but the military would be stronger and more battle-ready.

While that would be the best thing for a country at war as we are with child-raping, honor-killing, suicide-bombing, amputation-happy savages, the problem is that feminists won’t tolerate it. Mainly through the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), quotas for women have been imposed on the military for sixty years. And every time jobs have been opened to them, the standards have been lowered to accommodate their lesser physical capabilities and to reduce their high rates of injury. (Say, if those military men are such thugs, such brutes, such women-hating monsters, how come they’ve accommodated women this way since 1948? Weird.) So the 2-person (one daren’t call it 2-man) stretcher-carry is now a 4-person stretcher-carry, women don’t have to do the pull-ups men do, throw a grenade as far, run as fast, scale the wall without steps, and on and on. Between lower standards for women and political correctness that sees making men out of boys as abuse, the standards are de facto lower for all.

Breaking ground. Fallujah, Iraq 2005. © Jude Eden

Breaking ground. Fallujah, Iraq 2005.   © Jude Eden

Any testing to evaluate women’s strength, how they respond to types of physical training, or qualifying tests to determine job suitability have been defunded, abandoned, or, when the results show that women don’t qualify for the heavy-lifting jobs that feminists want them to occupy, discredited. One example is the Military Enlistment Physical Strength Capacity Test (MEPSCAT). It was initially developed to address a problem brought to light by the military itself: Although they were filling their quotas, 85% of women filling the slots couldn’t do what the jobs required. As Stephanie Gutmann writes in The Kinder, Gentler Military, research scientists

“…categorized all Army jobs as light, heavy, or very heavy, and then devised standard physical requirements – expressed as low, medium, high – with which to separate applicants for a particular MOS. They then conducted preliminary tests to see if soldiers in the field, already out there in assigned jobs, were matched with an appropriate MOS. ‘The results,’ as the Army Times put it, ‘did not bode well for women.’ While most men exceeded the high and medium standards for aerobic capacity,’ the paper reported, ‘no woman met the high standard and very few the medium. In other words, by the proposed test’s standards, all of the men were qualified for their jobs in heavy-lifting specialties but fewer than 15 percent of the women.’”[1]

Military readiness? Hardly. The reaction from a member of DACOWITS? “The Army is a male-oriented institution and officials are resistant to changes that will allow women to be fully utilized.” Testing showed the obvious, women couldn’t do the heavy lifting in jobs where they were placed via quotas, so the data had to be buried. The MEPSCAT was never implemented as a way to match recruits to appropriate jobs, even though that makes all the sense in the world to anyone but feminists and their lackeys at the Pentagon.

Lt. Santangello has a similarly feminist angle on why she was powerless to supplement her own training to prepare for the OIC: “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.” It’s the male-dominated culture, stupid.

Why does a strong young college hockey player with the guts to join the Marines and the ability to become an officer suddenly wilt at negativity from anyone? Is that the attitude that got her through Officer Candidate’s School? Why would such a tough cookie listen to anyone who told her she couldn’t compete? Why wouldn’t she use it, as so many athletes do, to fuel her ambition to prove them wrong? Herein lies the usual riddle of feminist dogma: Women are as strong as men, but women are victims of men. It’s garbage. Advocates for women in combat are desperate to explain away the natural ability differences between the sexes.

I only served a four-year term in the Marines, but in that time (2004-2008) no one ever told me I couldn’t compete because I was a woman. Nor are men encouraged to perceive women as weak. If anything, their encouraged, at peril of losing their careers, to make themselves believe the lie that women are their physical equals. Today, we all are. Point out the obvious and you’re charged with waging the “war on women.” In my experience, feminism is so prevalent in the military that men trip over themselves trying to ensure they don’t offend. They can’t afford to even think the truth. Women are not as strong and athletic as strong, athletic men. That is why women, even very athletic women, are failing OIC. That is why women aren’t competing with men in professional football, wrestling, or mixed martial arts. It doesn’t mean women are inferior human souls, nor does it mean there is no place for women in the military. It means it makes total logical sense for many MOSs, especially the combat units, to remain closed to women.

Hey Girl, forget your pack?  Photo c/o Marine Corps Times

Hey Girl, forget your pack? Photo c/o Marine Corps Times

Equal training standards would indeed put women in better stead. It’s hard to take pride in the hollow affirmations that we’re doing everything that men are when we know we’re held to a lower standard. It would be better for us as women serving, better for the men with whom we serve, and above all better for a winning military. However, women’s failure to make these kinds of standards is not just for a lack of training. For example, the women going through Marine Corps boot camp throughout 2013 were being trained to achieve the men’s minimum of three pull-ups. They were trained to pass the test, yet 55% of them couldn’t make that minimum. 99% of male recruits can, whether or not they were particularly athletic before shipping off.

When I decided to join the Marines, I already worked out regularly. I had been jogging and hitting the gym since my teens, my sport was martial arts. To prepare for the Marines, I worked out harder and more often. No one had to tell me to, I knew my own weaknesses. If I made it to graduation, I didn’t want to let down the Marines to my left and my right. Once I hit the fleet, despite developing knee problems, I worked out more often than anyone in my platoon to maintain a first-class PFT and perform anything else that was demanded. The guys could eat fast food daily, smoke and drink, then run 6-minute miles. Meanwhile I ate clean and mixed weight training and Semper Fit classes to supplement our regular PT schedule. I envied the guys’ natural ability and found their metabolism particularly infuriating. I may have had more to overcome than some of my female peers, but my experience is not singular. To complete the same physically demanding task, a woman expends much more effort than a man. 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 didn’t create this reality, and women training harder won’t change it.

In his book, Coed Combat, Kinsley Brown, a law professor whose graduate work includes physical anthropology, points out that,

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 61 percent…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.’ [emphasis in the original][2]

img6503p124 Army Lieutenant Colonel William Gregor, who taught at West Point, also compared the performances of male and female cadets.

“Gregor found that the upper fifth of women achieved scores on the test equivalent to the bottom fifth of men, but even with equivalent scores, the men and the women were not physical equals: ‘The women who achieved this level of fitness are unusual. They are confident, they are talented, but they are limited in their potential relative to men. The men, in contrast, have the potential to do much better…APFT scores do not measure relative strength or performance [and are therefore] the kindest to the woman, because she works only against her own weight. If we were to add a load, the gap between males and females would widen. If we were to reinstate the 40-yard man-carry that was part of readiness 20 years ago, we would find far fewer women achieving passing scores using the male tables.’ Gregor also testified that a man is more likely to be able to meet minimum standards later in his career, whereas a woman has nowhere to go but down, and rapidly as she ages.”[3]

www.anatomy4sculptors.comFemales can train as hard as we like, and we may increase strength, stamina, and fitness. But our increased fitness still won’t put us on par with that of the men who are training to their utmost, like men in combat units. No matter how widespread feminism becomes, our bones will always be lighter than men’s, more vulnerable to breaks and fractures. Our aerobic capacity will still be 20-40% less, and we’ll still be less able to bear heavy gear at a hard-pounding run. Can we scale the eight-foot wall in full combat load? No steps are provided to give women a boost in the heat of battle like they are in coed military boot camps (and even the MC’s Officer Candidate’s School). Santangello boasts that she got 16 pull-ups on her last physical fitness test. That’s excellent, but PFT’s are done in a t-shirt and shorts. Can we do a dozen pull-ups in full combat gear? That’s just one of many requirements in the OIC combat endurance test. Can we carry another man on our back with both our full combat load and his? These differences in ability are deal-breakers in combat. The standards are not arbitrary. They’re designed to keep the weak out, because accommodating the weak means lives lost and mission failure. This is not just competitive sports, this is war. Infantry officers must not only be educated, brave, and highly athletic. They must be better at everything than all their men because Marine officers lead from the front. Hence their motto: Ductus Exemplo, leadership by example. Which of these women is better than an entire infantry platoon?

Today, advocates for women in combat, primarily civilian feminists and a handful of feminist officers, are doing everything they can to see that the standards are lowered once more to accommodate women. Hence, reservist Army Colonel Ellen Haring, one of the women suing to open combat units to women, wants the OIC’s combat endurance test thrown out (so tries to discredit it as merely an initiation rite). The females who made it through the Marine Corps’ enlisted School of Infantry were still rated on a double standard for the combat fitness test, a fact dutifully and deliberately omitted by those reporting breathlessly: “Women Pass Infantry Training!” (How will that help them when they’re actually in combat, to have passed on a lower standard?) And in the announcement of the WIC policy last year, General Dempsey said, “[I]f 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?” We all know where this is going, and it will be catastrophic for all: women and men on the front lines, our ability to win wars, and the country and loved one’s we’re protecting.

Finally, Lt. Santangello’s contention that women are unfairly barred from a second chance at OIC is deliberately misleading. The only officers 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 recent piece, The Mission Goes First. Since combat units are still closed to women, they don’t get a second try because this delays the training for their assigned MOS and unfairly pushes behind other Marines waiting their turn. As a Marine and officer, Santangello knew this when she wrote her article, so she had no business calling it discrimination. Letting her try the course again, which the commandant of the Marine Corps did after she published, was applying a double standard. She asks that the rules and standards be ignored and that she get special treatment because she’s a woman. That’s 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’s head of a platoon, will she expect her men(and women) to follow her example?

[1] Stephanie Gutman, The Kinder, Gentler Military. New York: Scribner, 2000.

[2] Kingsley Brown, Coed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight The Nation’s Wars; New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

[3] Brian Mitchell, Women in the Military: Flirting With Disaster; Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998.

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

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

About Jude Eden, Jane of Trades

© Jude Eden 2008-2014 All Rights Reserved. Jude Eden is a Hillsdale College grad, a Jewish Marine Corps Iraq War Veteran, cancer survivor, musician, conservative activist and the wife of a legal immigrant. Follow on Twitter at @Jude_Eden View all posts by Jude Eden, Jane of Trades

2 responses to “Combat: Testosterone Required (More Than Ever)

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