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There is nothing equal about the implementation of Leon Panetta’s unilateral decision to allow women to serve in front-line combat units.
Giving women the “choice” to serve in a front-line combat unit means that you have also given them a choice NOT to serve in those types of units. Male soldiers, on the other hand, are afforded no such choice: if you’re assigned to a combat unit, and that combat unit goes to war, you can go with them or you can go AWOL.
That’s not gender equality.
Having served in a medical unit as a combat medic, which was comprised of ~35% women, I have first-hand experience in serving directly with women soldiers. Many of whom were absolutely prepared, qualified, and capable of serving anywhere their male counterparts did.
And many who were not. And why were they not prepared? Because the Army does not require women to train to the same physical standards as their male counterparts are held to.
War is hell, and physically taxing beyond anything you think you might know. It requires not just great stamina, but also exceptional physical strength. And the Soldiers you serve with depend on you to be able to pull not just your own weight — but if it comes to it, someone else’s weight. Literally.
As a combat medic, part of our training included carrying patients. Sometimes this was a four-person litter carry, over great distances. Sometimes it was a two-person carry. And sometimes we were called upon to lift a fallen Soldier by ourselves.
Many of the female medics in my unit were simply not capable of lifting another Soldier and moving them to safety.
If women want to serve on the front lines — which I support — then make sure that they are qualified and capable of doing so. Make them train to the same physical standards that their male counterparts do.
Michael Yon, who knows as much, and likely more, than just about anybody else about modern warfare, hits this perfectly (via his Facebook page):
Many people are weighing in, and some ask about my view. Since 2005, I have constantly defended the truth on this matter by saying that women are in real combat every day. That goes from Apache, Blackhawk, Kiowa pilots (numerous have been hit), to true ground combat.
Not just in vehicles, but real life infantry ground combat, with real firefights, bombs, the works. Just like the movies. Bullets flying and the women are out there. I got the pics and video many times.
This goes all the way down to platoon level. They operate as medics, civil affairs, intel, female engagement teams, and no doubt other jobs. I have seen this in serious fighting Iraq with both British and US forces, and I have seen women in serious firefights in Afghanistan, again with both British and US forces. That they are in combat every day, and have been for years, is a FACT. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or uninformed.
However…the idea of making women into grunt (infantry) Marines, and US Army Rangers, etc., is a huge mistake. Some women can likely handle it, but as one Marine said here today, it will lead to unneeded deaths of young men and women.
As example, when we take casualties, it is often necessary to carry the casualties a long distance to a helicopter landing zone. If you take five casualties, in many situation you will need 30 men to carry them, and it is not always flat easy ground.
Sometimes they have to drag the wounded out of the line of fire. Happens all the time. This is daily business, not some rare occurrence. They must be dragged body armor and all, to cover, then medics break out the stretchers.
A wounded, immobile Marine with full kit is a heavy beast, and time is crucial when he is bleeding and bullets are flying.
After he is on the stretcher, you might have to go down or up treacherous slopes, at night. This sxxx is HARD. Or through the obstacle courses of the vineyards in Helmand and Kandahar. Those walls and vineyards can be hard even for unwounded people.
If you take five or ten casualties, the entire unit might be involved in carrying them. This is grueling work, and you do not have the luxury of weakness. Weakness simply means death.
If you are willing to admit that this is going to happen, and are still good with sending women to infantry units, you have made the decision that it is okay to die to forward women’s rights, and I respect that decision so long as you are honest that you are willing to let people die. But to deny that people will die is a flat lie, and that is not respectable.
I think one of the commenters at Yon’s page is exactly right as to the real purpose of this move at this time: “I think it’s also cowardly of Panetta to do this on his way out. The Left wants the military hobbled as well as sad stories of wounded/killed women to polarize public opinion.”
MORE: Lt. Col. (retired) Allen West, who knows a good deal about the military, war, and combat preparedness, is opposed:
“Unless the Obama administration has not noticed, we are fighting against a brutal enemy and now is not the time to play a social experiment with our ground combat forces,” he wrote. “President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, should be focused on sequestration and the failure of his policies in the Middle East. This is the misconceived liberal progressive vision of fairness and equality which could potentially lead to the demise of our military.