Over the last two decades, the push for greater integration of women into combat-related jobs in the military has gained tremendous ground. The 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule replaced the previous “risk rule” which “excluded women from units that had a high probability of engaging in ground combat” (Barry 20). Although more progressive than its predecessor, the 1994 policy still “excluded [women] from units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground” (Barry 20). This policy was based on the assumption that battlefields were going to remain linear with distinct frontlines and rear-echelons.

Today’s recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that battlefields no longer have this distinction of combatant front lines and non-combatant rear-echelons; they are non-linear and unpredictable. Due to this new aspect of warfare, 152 U.S. servicewomen were killed from 9/11 to January 2013. During this time, “women made up almost 15% of U.S. military personnel” (Barry 20), and were finding themselves in direct combat even though they remained in non-combat jobs.

In the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress “required the defense and service secretaries to review policies ‘to determine whether changes needed to ensure that female members have an equitable opportunity to compete and excel in the armed forces” (Army Times). But this was not enough for civilian groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which took the case of four female service members who felt they were discriminated against by the current policies of the military. The four service members’ argument resided in the fact that “[the] majority of senior leadership positions in the U.S. military were held by former infantry and armour officers, excluding women from these roles created an unnecessary glass ceiling for female officers” and “violated their constitutional rights” (Barry 21).

As it stands now for the Army, an announcement from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened 14,000 jobs that were previously closed off to women. However, 30% of Army jobs will still be restricted to only men, but must now develop “gender neutral” standards for integrating women in the future (Army Times). The Department of Defense (DOD) still has time to recommend exceptions, such as Special Forces and Infantry, but they “must be narrowly tailored and based on a rigorous analysis of factual data regarding knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the position” (Barry 21). These recommendations also will require the approval of the current Secretary of Defense.

Despite all the risks, women are still pushing for complete equal rights and access to every job in the military, including Special Forces and the Infantry. As stated before, most field-grade officers begin their careers in these combat jobs that are banned for women. Also, there are many Army schools that are only open to Special Forces or the Infantry that, once completed, are worth points for promotions.

Because women cannot participate in these schools, they are not eligible for these points which lead to quicker promotions and more pay. Women also argue that, since they have already shown they can perform in direct combat, they want the opportunity to serve their county in combat just as any male has the same right. But serving in “direct combat” differs from the life of soldier in a combat job.

Up to now, many tests have already been done regarding the physical stresses of the combat soldier’s life as opposed to the time spent in actual direct combat. The case studies which, will be elaborated on later in this paper, show that the female body cannot sustain the physical stresses over time due to physiological differences as well as their male counterparts. Studies have already been published proving that the physical demands of these combat jobs are greater than non-combat jobs. Soldiers in these roles already have higher injury rates then their non combat counterparts and the rate will more than double with the integration of females. This injury rate turns an emotional argument into an economic one, and specifically how it economically affects you, the taxpayer.

Before explaining how the integration of women into combat roles is not an economically sound decision, we need to define the term “combat.” Now, before you go and bring up a dictionary definition, I do not care what it says in some book. Eleven long years I have served in the infantry and Special Forces, and I can tell you that you will not find it written, typed, printed, or posted anywhere; to comprehend it, you need to have lived it.

Most combat wounds are not in the form of gunshot wounds or amputations. They take the form of collapsed arches, tendonitis, back problems, knee issues and shoulder pain. If I had to choose a word to describe my time in combat, boring is the first word that comes to mind. Ninety percent of the time nothing happens, you are bored, waiting for that moment to arrive. But when it does, it’s the most extreme time of your life, and then it’s over.

Combat is not just the short period of time when you are actively engaging the enemy. It is the long days in between those moments. It is the thirty-mile trek through the mountains with eighty pounds on your back, it is the constant patrols for a year or more wearing fifty pounds of armor for eighteen hours a day, it is the no sleep for days on end, and it is the no showers or running water for months. The constant physical struggle of the combat life is the most challenging part of the job, not the time in direct combat.

As with the definition of “combat,” the argument between women participating in these combat jobs enters another communication schism. The problem here lies with the care of soldiers who are injured during their time in the military. If any person (male/female, combat job/non-combat job) gets seriously hurt during training or service thereafter, the government is responsible to take care of those injuries for the life of the soldier. There are cases where people can medically retire from injuries sustained in Basic Training. As of 2007, “about 1,500, or 4%, of recruits entering U.S. Army Basic Combat Training (BCT) were discharged during BCT. The cost to recruit and medically clear a trainee has been estimated at $22,000 and the cost of BCT at $18,000. Thus, the monetary losses in Fiscal Year 2007 because of BCT attrition were between $33 and $57 million, depending on when the recruit was discharged. Discharge rates have been increasing over the last few years. Previous studies have shown that medical/physical problems account for many of the discharges within the first 6 months of Army enlistment” (Swedler 1104).

Financially speaking, recruits who do not complete Basic Training cost the taxpayers around $50 million dollars a year. This financial burden only represents recruits who do not pass the training in their first six months of service. An exponentially greater figure represents the funding needed to care for service members who have medical conditions for the remainder of their lives resulting from their service in the military. With the integration of women into harder, tougher combat jobs, we can expect these numbers to rise greatly.

A recent study titled “Risk Factors for Medical Discharge from United States Army Basic Combat Training” examined 4,005 medical drops from Basic Training to attempt to mitigate future losses. The study found “women had a higher risk of discharge than men (91 men and 112 women were discharged comprising 3.3% and 8.7% of male and female trainees, respectively” (1104). The study also recognized that the primary risk-factor for not completing Basic Training was being of the female gender. Keep in mind, this study was conducted with women who were not integrated into the harder, more physically strenuous Infantry Basic Training.

The military wants all soldiers to have the best chance of passing training healthy, so they choose from a pool of candidates who will most likely pass the training – the physically fit, American male teenager. The military does not create this pool from which to choose, but simply chooses candidates from the existing populace who will most likely continue to be healthy for years to come. It is just simply not a financially sound investment to allow women to enter for combat jobs. The United States is already economically in a hole from twelve years of war and does not need to compound the problem.

Finding itself with the burden of sixteen trillion dollars of debt, Congress is looking for any excuse to cut spending. But with the politically correct push of integrating females into combat jobs, the government is making a decision that will greatly increase spending for healthcare of our veterans. As of today, “The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history–totaling somewhere between $4 to $6 trillion. This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs.” The scariest part of this fact is “the largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid” and “these benefits will increase further over the next 40 years” (Bilmes). We do not have to look 40 years down the road to see how fiscally irresponsible this integration is. Recent examples exist today of the Marine Corps integrating women into harder training and the price it has already cost us.

ADM McRaven: RAND & JSOU to Conduct Studies on Female SOF

Read Next: ADM McRaven: RAND & JSOU to Conduct Studies on Female SOF

The Marines are the service on the forefront of entering women in their combat roles, and recently they have tried pushing fourteen women through their Infantry officer course. Second Lieutenant Sage Santangelo was one of the fourteen women to attempt the grueling challenge and recalls, “I was one of four women in the group, bringing the number to 14 female officers who had attempted the course since it was opened to women in the fall of 2012. All the women so far had failed — all but one of them on the first day.”

2LT Santangelo continues to state “yes, men have biological advantages in tests of upper-body strength. But women can do pull-ups if given enough time to build that strength. (I did 16 in my last physical fitness test, and I have no illusions that I’m the most qualified female Marine.) Recognizing biologically based advantages and disadvantages and developing training programs that work to balance them are key” (The Washington Post). Developing extra training programs to train women to simply pass standards in Basic Training gets funded by the DOD. The DOD gets funded by the government which in turn gets funded by you, the taxpayer.

In order to integrate women into combat roles, they must be first able to pass Basic Training. Before this push for integration, women were only able to enter Basic Training for non-combat jobs. The recent events have now opened up Basic Training for combat jobs which is longer, harder, and meant to produce a soldier who will be able to withstand the harshness of combat life. The first issue under contention is the set standards already in place that every soldier must attain. Supporters and non-supports both agree that direct combat doesn’t differentiate between men and women and neither should the standards in training. Rebekah Havirlla, a female soldier who’s story will be explained later, “reckons there should be one physical standard across the board. ‘I know a lot of men who couldn’t meet certain physical standards, and I know a bunch of women who could. If you can do it, great. If you can’t, move on'” (New Scientist).

But “in the push to put women on the front lines, the Marines are taking a knee. In other words, they’re delaying the Jan. 1 deadline requiring women to do pull-ups to help them prepare for the rigors of combat” (Thompson). In 2013, the Marine Corps, in line with keeping standards equal across the board, mandated that every Marine, male or female, will have to at least be able to complete three pull-ups, the minimum passing score for males on the physical fitness test.

Before the mandate, women had to simply hold themselves over the bar for fifteen seconds to pass the test. But with this implementation, more than fifty percent of women could not pass the test. But unlike their male counterparts, these women were not dropped from the course. Instead “the Marine Corps extend[ed] the transition from the flexed-arm hang to pull-ups for the female Physical Fitness Test to allow for the further gathering of data to ensure all female Marines are provided with the best opportunity to succeed. All Marines are strongly encouraged to continue training under the assumption that pull-ups will remain a standard of measure for physical fitness” (Thompson).

The Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test is a short exercise to, in theory, keep Marines physically fit enough to be able to pull themselves over an obstacle. Even in this small example, the physical differences between men and women became apparent. The three pull-up minimum also creates the idea that attaining the minimum standard is acceptable. Women and men who aspire to survive the rigors of combat jobs need to attain much greater than the bare minimum. The delaying of this mandate also shows how politics will always complicate basic ideas that can be agreed upon by both sides.

Reactions from supporters of eliminating the ban suggest that “additional training and conditioning further decrease the gap between female and male service members, and evidence indicates that women usually benefit substantially from fitness-training programs” (Mackenzie 32-42). Their argument resides in the fact that women have been growing up in a man’s world and it has lead to them not being as physically fit as their male counterparts. Women will benefit from additional training and conditioning but again, as stated earlier, the funding for these programs comes from your pockets. The counter-arguments for integration appeal to emotional aspects of the argument and fail to take a look at other factual and historical examples.

The British armed forces have been down this road before and have the hard evidence to prove it.

In the final decade of the 20th century, the British Armed Forces came under intense pressure to open up traditionally male roles to female recruits. For training, women were initially given lower entry and exit standards, but it became apparent that many did not possess the strength necessary for their work. This ‘gender fair’ policy was therefore changed to a ‘gender free’ policy, whereby identical physical fitness tests were used for selection of male and female recruits and the training programme made no allowances for gender differences. To determine the effects of this policy change, data from medical discharges were examined for the periods before and after implementation, with reference to musculoskeletal injuries of the lower limbs. In the first cohort there were 5697 men and 791 women, in the second 6228 men and 592 women (JRSM).

The British Armed Forces were in the exact same situation the American Armed Forces are in today. In deciphering exactly what they did, we can see that the hardships of actual Infantry training, not just the time in direct combat, affect women much greater than men. The study focused on the musculoskeletal injuries of men and women during their “segregated” training in different job fields and compared them to when women were integrated together with men in all job fields.

The cross-gender (F/M) odds ratio for discharges because of overuse injury rose from 4.0 (95% CI 2.8 to 5.7) under the gender-fair system to 7.5 (5.8 to 9.7) under the gender-free system (P=0.001). Despite reducing the number of women selected, the gender-free policy led to higher losses from overuse injuries.

This study confirms and quantifies the excess risk for women when they undertake the same arduous training as male recruits, and highlights the conflict between health and safety legislation and equal opportunities legislation (JRSM).

In looking at the results of the attached study, the discharges for women after their integration rose to almost 10%, double of that of their male counterpart. These studies prove that, although there are females who were able to pass the training, it would cost the military double the capital to produce an infantrywoman as compared to an infantryman. These studies also do not take into account that these numbers would exponentially grow with more time served in the infantry field. Biologically, men are just more physically suited for the rigors of combat operations.

This has to do with the “obstetrical dilemma.” Humans have a bi-pedal bony pelvis that is ideal for bi-pedal locomotion, aka walking. The dilemma occurs wherein over time, the human brain has evolved to a larger size. Since bi-pedal pelvises only allow for a certain sized birth canal, the large cranium is making child birth more difficult for human beings (Walrath 5-31).

Evolution at some point has tried to account for this by widening the hips of women to create a larger birth canal. “The increased breadth of the female pelvis began to be interpreted as the result of natural selection working through the mechanical requirements of childbirth” (5-31). This creates a wider angle of the hips (Q angle) which leads to the narrowing of the knees to compensate. Multiple medical studies prove that having an increased Q angle leads to multiple musculoskeletal injuries.

An Iranian study, titled “Q-Angle: An Invaluable Parameter for Evaluation of Anterior Knee Pain,” covered both males and females and proved that the patients they studied with knee pain all had larger Q angles then healthy individuals (Emami 24). With our previous findings stating that females generally have larger “Q” angles then males, we can infer that females are more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries than males. It is also important to note that these studies were under normal living conditions. The life of an Infantryman requires daily compressive load to the spine, which exaggerates these findings.

With U.S. forces operating around the world in austere conditions for more than a year, at times, the physical demands on soldiers has lead to an increase in musculoskeletal injuries. As of now, “musculoskeletal injuries are the number one reason for seeking medical care in the military and the number one cause of medical evacuation from theater. Musculoskeletal injuries composed 25% of all medical evacuations from Afghanistan in 2006, whereas combat injuries only accounted for 7%.” The effects of these injuries “impact military units and reduce their ability to accomplish missions (Roy 903-908). Most casualties in war are due to physical injures of the combat life, not direct combat.

Data by gender, site of injury and cohort

Gender fair

Gender free

M (5697)


M (6228)

F (692)

Achilles tendinitis





Anterior knee pain





Mechanical back pain





Anterior tibial pain





Stress fracture tibia





Stress fracture foot





Stress fracture pubis





Contrary to popular belief, soldiers who are engaged in direct combat on the front line have a greater chance leaving the combat theatre due to a musculoskeletal injury then from any actions from the enemy.

In researching which jobs had the most cases of musculoskeletal injuries, the study found the “most frequent MOS’s [job] treated were Infantry (13.1%)” and the Infantry MOS [job] also had the highest prevalence of knee injuries (26%)” (903-908). The study also goes on to say “this study offers new information by analyzing beyond body region injured and assessing which diagnoses were more common within specific MOSs. The Infantry MOS was significantly associated with meniscal tears. They operated off the bases wearing their individual body armor in very mountainous terrain. Many of those with meniscal tears reported a loss of footing during patrols” (903-908).

Overuse from the hardships of combat jobs takes its toll on the bodies of these deployed males over time, not just in a short firefight. “Soldiers are required to work 6 to 7 days a week while deployed, thus resulting in overuse as a common cause of injury. A deployed Infantry unit suffered 12.4% overuse injuries compared to a non-deployed Infantry unit, 5.6%.” Although wearing an armored vest for one day may not cause an injury, wearing one for 4 hours a day every day (overuse) does correlate with injury” (903-908).

As discussed previously, every argument on combat that scholarly, peer-reviewed articles attempt to paint is that combat is the short period of time of actual fighting, and that women have the ability to accomplish it. “Trauma on the Front Line,” an article supporting women in combat, tells the story of Rebekah Havrilla. After being denied the ability to serve with the Infantry, Rebekah joined E.O.D. (explosive ordinance disposal) “because it was the closest she could get to a combat role. She [Rebekah] served in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007, working with infantry and Special Forces units, dealing with anything that could explode.” The article later goes on to state, “there’s no such thing as a front line, she says, and her role regularly took her into the line of fire. ‘Anywhere you are you have the potential to deal with combat related incidents. One of my friends was killed because a rocket hit the chow hall tent'” (New Scientist).

E.O.D. is not a combat job and does not engage in combat operations. The task of E.O.D. Units is “to research and identify ordnance, assist in the preparation and use of advanced robotics, explosively dispose of hazardous ordnance, and prepare and maintain their tools, equipment and vehicles” (goArmy.com). However, men and women in any job, combat or no-combat, can find themselves engaged in direct combat with the enemy.

Private First Class Monica Brown received the Silver Star (the nations 3rd highest award) for her actions in Khost, Afghanistan.

Brown was serving as a Medic with the 73rd Cavalry and is the second women to receive the award since World War Two (Scott). The citation for the Silver Star reads:

While on patrol, the trail vehicle struck an IED which ignited the fuel, engulfing the vehicle in an intense fireball. The patrol began to take small arms and mortar fire. As the element retired fire, Specialist Brown immediately dismounted her vehicle, and without regard for her personal safety, moved to the burning vehicle amid intense enemy fire. After arriving at the vehicle, Specialist Brown began to treat two casualties. As she treated the wounded soldiers, intense enemy fire continued to impact her immediate vicinity. On several occasions, Specialist Brown used her body to shield the casualties from enemy fire, as well as the explosions of ammunition. Specialist Brown moved to the more protected position with her patients, and continued treatment as enemy small arms fire continued to impact around her. Once again, Specialist Brown shielded the wounded with her body.”

Brown was attached to the Cavalry unit as a medic working in the aid station (medical clinic) on the base. She did not have an extended time performing foot patrols through the mountains or living the life of an Infantryman; she stayed in the clinic and took care of soldiers. When the soldiers going on patrol were short a medic, they took Brown with them to provide medical coverage (which every patrol must have). She then rode on a vehicle patrol until she was engaged in combat. In essence, Brown skipped over the “life of a combat soldier” and fast-forwarded to direct combat, which she then performed gallantly.

This is the issue at the heart of the argument for allowing women into combat jobs. The arguments that support women in combat jobs are based on accounts of women performing gallantly in direct combat. As proven earlier, the problem isn’t women’s performance in actual combat, but the hardships that come along with being in a combat role and the physical stresses the body must endure. Supporters also argue that a few select women “can” endure these stresses and hence all women “should” be allowed to try. But, by breaking down the arguments on a scientific and factual level, we see that the risks to integrating “some” women actually affect “all” citizens, men and women.

Our nation’s physical defense capabilities and the quality of our military are at stake. More importantly, the funding needed to support these politically correct actions takes an extreme toll on taxpayers’ pockets during a time where the military budget is already on the chopping block and the average taxpayer needs every dollar to get by.

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally attributed to Jack Murphy. Apologies to John Fitzsimmons, the article’s author.)



Ann Scott, Tyson. “Woman Gains Silver Star — And Removal From Combat.” Washington Post, The n.d.: Regional Business News. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Barry, Ben. “Women In Combat.” Survival (00396338) 55.2 (2013): 19-30. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.

Bilmes, Linda J. “The Financial Legacy Of Iraq And Afghanistan: How Wartime Spending Decisions Will Constrain Future National Security Budgets.” (2013): EconLit with Full Text. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.

Emami, Mohammad-Jafar, et al. “Q-Angle: An Invaluable Parameter For Evaluation Of Anterior Knee Pain.” Archives Of Iranian Medicine 10.1 (2007): 24-26. MEDLINE. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

“Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Specialist Jobs (89D).” Goarmy.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014

Gemmell, Ian M M. “Injuries Among Female Army Recruits: A Conflict Of Legislation.” Journal Of The Royal Society Of Medicine 95.1 (2002): 23-27. MEDLINE. Web. 13 Apr. 2014

Mackenzie, Megan H. “Let Women Fight.” Foreign Affairs 91.6 (2012): 32-42. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.

Roy, Tanja C. “Diagnoses And Mechanisms Of Musculoskeletal Injuries In An Infantry Brigade Combat Team Deployed To Afghanistan Evaluated By The Brigade Physical Therapist.” Military Medicine 176.8 (2011): 903-908. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2014

Swedler, David I., et al. “Risk Factors For Medical Discharge From United States Army Basic Combat Training.” Military Medicine 176.10 (2011): 1104-1110. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2014

The Washington, Post. “Failing the Infantry Officer Course.” Washington Post, The Feb. 0004: Regional Business News. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Thompson, Mark. “Corps Delays Pull-Up Requirements For Female Marines.” Time.Com (2013): 1. Military & Government Collection. Web. 20 Apr. 2014

Tilghman, AndrewBacon, Lance M. “Dod To Open 14,000 Army Jobs To Women.” Army Times 72.32 (2012): 18-19. Military & Government Collection. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.

“Trauma On The Front Line.” New Scientist 217.2902 (2013): 6. MAS Ultra – School Edition. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Walrath, Dana. “Rethinking Pelvic Typologies and the Human Birth Mechanism.”Current Anthropology 44.1 (2003): 5-31. Print.

“WOMEN IN FRONT LINE COMBAT–A DEFENCE ISSUE OR A DISCRIMINATION ISSUE?.” National Observer 2001: 5. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2014