A former U.S. Army Kiowa helicopter pilot, Amber Smith makes some interesting observations about Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's announcement last week that all military positions are open to women. This means putting women on the front lines of combat.
I've already blogged on Carter's announcement and worried that it means that the military is now seen as a tool for social engineering rather than a lethal fighting force to keep us safe. Smith addresses these concerns:
First of all, there has to be a mission standard, not a gender standard. That means all physical and mental requirements are set to a standard that is necessary to accomplish whatever mission each particular unit is tasked with. No quotas, no double standards, no “separate but equal” physical standards. An individual, man or woman, either qualifies or they don’t. No exceptions. This means only a few women will likely be able to qualify for these special operations and infantry units, and that’s okay. It’s about quality, not quantity. We want the best for the job.
Second, there’s a considerable amount of controversy surrounding unit cohesion and morale, and whether men will be willing to accept women in their ranks and whether it will detract from the mission. In my experience as a Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot in a male-dominated unit, if women who are accepted to the same unit successfully accomplished the exact same tests, physical requirements, and had no special treatment, there won’t be an issue. Resentment will occur if female quotas are applied to each unit to satisfy political agendas.
Smith believes that women should be able to try out, as long as there is no special treatment and the military's priority remains ensuring that our military is the world's best fighting force. I am skeptical, but we'll see. I am predicting that women who don't get the job they want will claim that discrimination kept them back, and ultimately, if the next secretary of defense does not reverse the order, soldiers who don't have the physical capacity will be sent into combat. I am also predicting that, if the presence of soldiers who aren't as strong as they should be makes serving even more dangerous, some people will think twice before joining the military.
I find it ironic that women who are (rightly) concerned about rape on college campuses are often the same people who would be okay with sending women into combat. I shudder to think what will happen if there are ever female POWs in a Middle East conflict. I hope you won't think me hopelessly sexist if I say that a woman's being beheaded could have an especially traumatic effect on military morale.
Smith also raises the question of the Selective Service law. Because women weren't on the front lines as warriors in the past, they have not had to register with Selective Service. This might change, and as against opening all positions to women as I am, I believe they should register with Selective Service. You can't have it both ways.With this decision, not requiring that women register for the draft now becomes discriminatory towards men.