The U. S. Marines are in the process of trying to set gender-neutral standards for front-line combat positions that have until now been held only by male Marines.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week on a Marine gathering at Camp Lejeune, North Caroline to try and set standards:
In combat, the No. 4 cannoneer on an artillery crew must heave 100-pound rounds, one after another, into the loading tray of a 155 mm howitzer.
In the North Carolina woods these days, the job sometimes falls to a crew member who weighs just slightly more than the artillery shell she has to lift. “Everybody thinks that we’re not good enough and can’t do everything males can do,” said Marine Lance Cpl. Vicki Harris, a 4-foot, 11-inch, 110-pound military clerk from Cambridge, Ohio. “I want to get out there and prove them wrong.”
Lance Cpl. Harris is part of a large-scale Marine Corps experiment intended to settle the question once and for all: Can women fight in ground-combat units alongside men? The Marines have gathered 400 men and women for a unique experiment to find out.
Some of us at IWF may not have reservations about sending physically able women to the front lines. Some of us do. For the record, I do.
Leaving cultural considerations aside,however, I hope that at least we won’t endanger the lives of all our soldiers and Marines (including female ones) by sending women who can’t do what is required physically to the front lines. If we do this, we will learn that political correctness kills.
We noted in a January blog (“G.I. Jane: You Want Me to Do How Many Pull Ups?”) that women were not doing as well as their male counterparts in tests. At that time, the Marines delayed presentation of a female fitness plan for women.
As I said, I have cultural problems with women in combat: What kind of man would not risk his life to save a woman over another man? This is an appeal to chivalry (said to be dead, but I am holding out hope for a resuscitation). But at the rock bottom there is physical aptitude for combat, and as Ed Morrissey observes, based on this, front-line combat is not a sure thing for female Marines:
Marine training is probably the most brutal of all the forces. (Certainly more difficult than what we had to do in the Navy.) They seem to be giving the women a fair shot to prove that they can perform the same tasks, but it looks to be a given that the majority of women are simply not big enough and muscular enough to do what they typically ask of the male marines. (And a LOT of the men wash out of training too.)
No matter what the physical tests show, feminists will argue for women in the front lines on the basis of ideology. They see the branches military not as the defenders of our nation but as engines for social change.
There are also a number of ambitious women in the military who want to make it to the top and they can’t do this unless front-line combat is open to women. Many women would prefer not to be sent to the front lines, but that doesn’t matter. Let us hope that, whatever the tests show, the military will continue to adhere to combat-ready standards.