February 8, 2013

The Inconvenient Truth About Women and Combat (Part 1)

The new debate about women in combat positions is an argument that few seem to be able to think clearly about.  This post will contain some harsh language.  Consider it a part of the selection process  if you are a woman.  If you can’t handle it then you might want to look at another career field because we say a lot worse about each other.

Whenever this topic comes up I hear the same statement from what seems like the vast majority of Americans.  It goes something like this, “Hold them to the same standard and if they can hack it then let them do the job.”  Intellectually I can look at this subject from an abstract standpoint and agree.  Why not let job positions be delegated to soldiers based on their ability to meet the qualifications rather than their gender?  This is probably the correct way to think about this subject, have one high standard which all must meet.

However, I did the job and there are some practical issues that we need to overcome.  Here is one of the ugly ones: the Army just doesn’t have a lot of integrity when it comes to maintaining standards.  They are often lowered for political reasons as commanders are expected to fill quotas or more understandably, units get understrength and need to be plused up on warm bodies.  This is the wrong way to go about the problem because letting sub-standard personnel in causes huge problems down the line ranging from degraded operational capabilities to unit morale.  Special Operations units are no exception to these internal politics I’m afraid.

But that isn’t fair to female soldiers, right?  The problem isn’t women in combat but rather that the institution of the Army needs to get their house in order and stand by their own core values, namely, upholding high standards of combat readiness.  I would agree with that argument as well and would be willing to work with anyone, man or woman, on this issue however I can.  I feel strongly about this and have written about it previously.


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About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • MKKSullivan

    I just now saw this article...... Spec Ops and what these guys do fascinates me. As far as I am concerned - let's do put them on a pedestal and leave it to the guys to carry out this business. While - maybe - a few good women - could do it - why complicate the issue ?  Hell, War is complicated enough. Oh, and yes - as far as the vagina goes - I have one- and it does require more maintenance. So sick and tired of all of this PC crap.

  • dmr11b

    Yes I am putting them on a pedestal <---best part of that article. You're right though, in the past few years they have let many standards slide. Seems like they're headed for downsizing and garrison army bullshit now though.

  • MGX

    I'd just like to add that I agreed with everything you stated, except for the fact that I believe that on average a vagina does need more maintenance. Particularly, I appreciated the last two points, regarding standards needing to be enforced and putting combat/spec ops up on the pedestal. Oh, and I'm a woman.

  • EmilioLizardo

    I've done martial arts and street fighting for many years and woman can't fight.  But what fundamental purpose is served by putting women in combat?  Throughout history and in every culture women are afforded non combat status, a basic instinct of species self preservation.  Being with a woman and protecting her are basic instincts of men. Another issue is that we would need to train our young men to put bayonets in the bellies of their young women.  Except that we have been training men from childhood not to hit the girls. Are women willing to shave their hair?  Deal with sex?  shower and shit with the boys?

  • Maiingankwe

    I don't know, it may be correct that muscle injuries may heal quicker with men, but what I do know is a lot of women have a higher pain threshold then a number of men. I don't think I could include SOF in this though, I'm talking the majority of our population. I've had medical procedures done where my male physicians were shocked on how calm I was throughout, and gave me stories on some of the men who went through the exact same thing. In another example there was an elderly woman in her eighties who had broken a bone completely in half and separated in her arm, refused pain medication and claimed her pain was as low a two out of ten being the highest. The physician stated that he found a lot of elderly women had higher pain thresholds than men, even the young male athletes in their twenties. Just something to think about.