Battleland

Women in Combat: Vive a Différence

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DoD photo / Tech. Sgt. Bradley C. Church

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey abolish the ban on women serving in combat.

Men and women differ from each other in peace, so it should come as no surprise that they’ll likely differ in combat, as well.

The Pentagon announced Thursday that virtually all ground-combat slots will be opening up to women over the next several years. “They’re fighting and they’re dying together, and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said shortly before signing an order lifting a 1994 Pentagon rule on women serving in close-combat positions, largely in infantry and armored units. All military jobs are now open to women unless the services petition that certain billets be closed to them.

Given that ground-combat-breaking change, it’s worth checking out the Pentagon’s own data to see how military women compare with military men.

Males are more aggressive, which can be beneficial in combat. But that trait also leads to more accidents and injuries, up to and including eye injuries (men in the military have twice as many as women) and suicide (men account for about 95% of military suicides). Women are more nurturing, and their most basic form of nurturing – motherhood – accounts for 58% of hospitalizations among active-duty female troops. But they also crash and kill themselves much less often. Yet even once pregnancy and delivery hospitalizations are removed from the equation, female troops are hospitalized at a rate 30% higher than their male counterparts.

(PHOTOS: Been There, Done That: Pentagon Formally Opens Combat to Women)

The average woman doesn’t have the same upper-body strength as the average man. “From 1970 to the late 1990s, the military services, especially the Army, conducted numerous tests to determine whether the physiological differences between men and women in upper-body strength, stamina, endurance, speed, and coordination were genetically determined or the product of a less active culture among women and, therefore, subject to change through proper conditioning programs,” a 2004 Army study said. “Test results varied widely except in the case of upper-body strength, which, it was generally agreed, seldom reached the male level among females.”

None of these things, of course, are show-stoppers. But the military is always seeking the healthiest, readiest-to-go force as possible, so such gender-different details matter.

In a perfect world, every U.S. soldier would be an asexual brute with a stunningly high IQ who doesn’t eat much, is adept at following orders and leery of challenging authority.

Given that such a creature has never existed, the nation builds its military one compromise at a time.

A pretty good indicator of how women might fare in or near combat is to review the data on medical evacuations from the nation’s two post-9/11 theaters of war. From January 2003 to December 2011, 50,634 troops had to be flown out of Afghanistan and Iraq for medical reasons — 44,258 men and 6,376 women. While women have accounted for about 10% of the U.S. forces deployed into the post-9/11 wars, they represented less than 13% of those medically evacuated – pretty close to their share of the force (battle injuries represented only about 15% of the total).

medevacs

dod / medical surveillance monthly report

Integrating women into the combat arms – primarily infantry, armor and artillery – is going to be a balancing act. Standards must be met, but there will be pressure to ensure enough women qualify so there’s not only one or two in a 150-troop company.

(MORE: Women In Combat: Shattering the “Brass Ceiling”)

There are women in the ranks who are stronger than some men in the ranks. So long as standards are properly set, and enforced, these differences should not prove insurmountable. But that will require the military services to double-check and ensure that the standards relate to what the troops are expected to do and not be inflated solely to keep women out of combat.

It also requires that a keen eye be kept on standards, and what yardsticks are used. “This means setting clear standards of performance for all occupations based on what it actually takes to do the job,” said Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “It also means ensuring that these standards are gender-neutral in occupations that will open to women.”

But “gender neutral” can have more than one meaning, according to a December report from the Congressional Research Service:

The use of the term “gender-neutral physical standards” raises questions depending on how it is defined. A plain reading of the term suggests that men and women would be required to meet the same physical standards in order to be similarly assigned. However, in the past, the Services have used this and similar terms to suggest that men and women must exert the same amount of energy in a particular task, regardless of the work that is actually accomplished by either. Hypothetically speaking, if a female soldier carries 70 pounds of equipment five miles and exerts the same effort as a male carrying 100 pounds of equipment the same distance, the differing standards could be viewed as ‘gender-neutral’ because both exerted the same amount of effort, with differing loads.

It’s no small point: the Army notes that troops in Afghanistan sometimes have to carry 127 pounds on their backs. These are definitions that will have to be worked out in the months ahead.

You can glean a lot about how men and women are different by reviewing Pentagon reports since 9/11. Military men are hospitalized more than their female peers for injuries and poisonings, musculoskeletal system/connective tissue disorders, and skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders. Military women were hospitalized more than men for genitourinary disorders, mental disorders, and neoplasms – tumors.

(MORE: The Combat Exclusion Policy: Under Attack)

Females in the military also visit the military’s walk-in clinics 50% more often then men do. It’s impossible to know how much of this is because women are more willing to seek help for various maladies rather than having an actually greater number of medical issues. Migraine headaches are three times more common in female than male troops. Military women incur stress fractures at double the rate of their male colleagues.

Differences in how men and women reacted to repeated combat deployments are slight; PTSD levels were similar. Male troops drank more, and females had greater difficulty adjusting once back home.

%w:mhconds

dod / medical surveillance monthly report

It all goes back to those eye injuries. Hospital visits for eye wounds are double for male military personnel compared to female because of what causes such wounds: “guns/explosives, motor vehicle accidents, and fights or assaults,” according to a Pentagon report.

It’s tough to fight if you can’t see.

The bottom line is that there are differences between men and women in the ranks, just like everywhere else. The Pentagon’s challenge is to accommodate them without watering down the U.S. military’s readiness and lethality.

90 comments
NHDStudents
NHDStudents

Hi I'm working on a National History Day project with my friend, and we're advancing onto County level. We're trying to get multiple perspectives, so does anybody know a World War II Veteran? We are having trouble looking for a veteran due to ages. We're from Southern California, and we would like to interview a Veteran to get a first person perspective from what they thought on women in war, in World War II, and today. Thank you very much, and please comment on this so we could find somebody to get interviewed. Thank you again, and please wish us luck.

jcbarsch
jcbarsch

i would not want them within a half mile of them in combat,they should have there own platoon and port a pottie. they do not want to take our the trash what the hell can you expect form them..............

TommyRay
TommyRay

Even consider the psychological stress put on a largely male squad of infantry when a female is gutted by enemy fire....  But what is important is that everyone got to participate in the "fun" of combat.  I mean really... what is the likelihood that the PTSD will be exacerbated by seeing women chewed up by IED, sniper fire and land mines on a more regular and routine basis.  If I were a sniper I would purposefully maim the female ...  What do you think the men would do ?  Run out...one by one...  I would shoot to kill then...   Leaving the maimed female to cry and wail for exfil...

ace4dave
ace4dave

I wouldn't worry about all these meaningless stats.  Can't compare apples to oranges.  What matters is that human lives are at stake here.  The physical standards are put in place for a reason.  The biggest concern I would have about women is simply the upper body strength to carry heavy loads on their back.  If they cannot meet this standard, then they cannot serve a combat role.

MikkahStrong
MikkahStrong

The standards between men and women best be equal. If a man must carry 120 pounds on his back then the women must carry just as much for just as long. I was in the Army for eight years and I would greatly resent if I had to carry someone elses weight.

ThenAtlasSpoke
ThenAtlasSpoke

You're focused on the eye injury rates of the men??? Seriously??? You incredibly act as if magically, somehow, these eye injuries are random and have no relation to the men being in high risk roles.  Let me tell you something, I was in combat arms and injured my eye once. Want to know how I injured my eye? It wasn't because I was "being a guy" and horse-playing. It was because I was on a firing range with a machine gun and a fleck of burning hot gun powder (from my own or the guy next to me) found its way to my cornea. In a combat role that would have happened whether I was a man or a woman, but it wouldn't happen to a woman in a non-combat role.

At the same time, you try to somehow equate that to the rate of women having stress fractures. However what you brush over is thet women having stress fractures at twice the rate is very telling and concerning. After all, this doubling of the rate of stress fractures is occurring now with the women being in much less physically demanding roles. Put them in a forward outpost in the middle of nowhere on the side of an Afghan mountain where the physical demands are multiple times greater and that rate shoots up to what...10 times the rate...20 times the rate. You can't have that. You can't be losing soldier after soldier in a unit like that just because their bone density is physiologically lower. It endangers the lives of everybody else in that unit.

And you're wrong, the reports from Afghanistan and Iraq are NOT the only information we have to draw from. In fact, since women were  NOT taking the same risks as the men in the front-line units (the most often injured and killed) that information source is virtually useless. If you want a valid information source, all one has to do is look at the reviews the Israeli army did after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, a war in which Israel had men and women integrated into the same combat units and actually fighting together. The results were disastrous. Rather than focusing on their mission the men instead were focused on protecting and helping the women, endangering themselves and often imperiling their units. Unit morale was also negatively impacted as the men saw the women killed and brutalized without being able to help them. THAT'S the real relevant information we can draw from, not some unicorns and glitter rainbows projection out of some fantasy world.

at7004
at7004

Hollywood has already starting filming a movie about female combatants- It's going to be called Full Metal Tampon.



jooby33
jooby33

You forgot to mention that women have higher IQs than men on average and the resulting benefits including women in combat units would have as a result.  You're happy to point out that men have more upper body strength but you won't acknowledge women's higher IQs.  Why?

Dan60093
Dan60093

I will be happy to support the use of women in combat if I never have to hear the Media use the expression, "women and children", when referring to some terrible event. They have the attitude that men are expendable and do not matter, but that an event is made worse if women suffer. Get over it.

superlogi
superlogi

As Dempsey would put it, if women can't measure up, then it's up to the military to measure down.  After all, this purpose of the military is social integration.

RugeirnDrienborough
RugeirnDrienborough

The so-called statistics in this report are utter junk as far as applicability to this issue goes. None of those numbers were gathered under anything like comparable conditions. Women have not, up to now, been allowed to serve in combat roles in sufficient numbers to learn anything.

darmyman
darmyman

The government has not said if all the 18 year old females will have to begin registering with selective service starting this year?

JohnRomano
JohnRomano

I think if a woman can prove herself capable, then why not!

www.ids-Anon.tk

atpcliff
atpcliff

Are women up to the task?

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was....she was a female Infantry Sniper who killed 257 men in May 1942. They forced her to leave the front lines after a mortar attack caused her fourth combat wound.

Meet Antonina Kotliarova:

She was a female Soviet Infantry Sniper, She didn't enjoy killing men, but it was her job, so she kept at it. But, in situations like the Liberation of Warsaw, everything was close range, so she was firing submachine guns, machine guns, and antitank weapons.

Later, near the Vistula River, she was operating a machine gun emplacement. After the war, an interviewer asked if she had been trained on the machine gun:

"No, we were already experienced. We could do everything on our own. And then, we had good eyesight, and skills. After all, we had graduated from a sniper school.

One male soldier was killed there. He sat there very sad, he probably felt that he would die. He wouldn't come to the embrasure (the defensive structure) or the machine gun."

Here is a case where the women are fighting, and the man is psychologically unable to do so.

emeraldseatown
emeraldseatown

Bullets are made of lead, with a copper jacket and sometimes a steel core.  These small metal objects have no brain, so they don't know or care what or who they are fired by, or fired at.  Rucksacks, artillery shells and mountains do not get lighter, smaller or shorter for anyone.

That is the reality of combat; there is no adjustment for gender, race or creed, and we should neither bar someone from a job or give it to them based on any qualification but mission accomplishment.

JohnForsthoffer
JohnForsthoffer

Whenever anyone (man or woman) signs up for the military, they're aware of the fact that some day they may be in a combat situation. Why should they ban women from combat? They should be given the same opportunities, good and bad. I had some motivated, hard charging females in my platoons back in the day. I would have fought by their side with great confidence. In the Marine Corps, it's not a male Marine nor a female Marine. Just Marine. 

OzarkGranny
OzarkGranny

I have worked in a high school for the past 7 years.  90% of the fist-fights are between girls.  I would say they are "combat ready."

ThenAtlasSpoke
ThenAtlasSpoke

@MikkahStrongYet you know that's exactly what will happen. In Israel they funnel nearly all women in combat roles into one single unit which is 70% female. This unit named Caracal is tasked with guarding the Israeli border...with Jordan, their friendly neighbor. So they have pretty light duty. Even then the women of the unit readily admit that “once in a while we can guilt the guys into doing the heavy lifting”. My guess is if they are readily admitting it, it is happening much more than "once in a while" There is a New York Times article about it titled "Looking to Israel for Clues on Women in Combat" which frankly is one of the least biased articles I've ever read from the NYT.

MikkahStrong
MikkahStrong

@ThenAtlasSpoke Agreed. There is no logic in this article. Of course men have higher eye injury rates as they are currently occupy far more dangerous roles in the military.

oldranger82
oldranger82

Maybe because "I.Q.'s" can't stuff your intestines back into your body when your buddy just got her shit blown away! Thats why, Princess!

ThenAtlasSpoke
ThenAtlasSpoke

@jooby33 So after years of study after study showing men with higher IQs, finally there is one single study that has women having higher IQs and you decide to latch onto that and run with it? Also as noted by others you're comparing a grape to a bowling ball. In Flynn's one study that shows this the difference was negligible. The difference in upper body strength is huge.

MikkahStrong
MikkahStrong

@jooby33 Because there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that women have higher IQs. In fact, research out of the University of Chicago suggests that the men have IQs over 150 at a rate that is twice that of women.

ealoseum
ealoseum

@jooby33 Women also have much less deviation of intelligence than men which is why almost all of the world's geniuses have been men.  Either way, the difference between iq's is so minimal it wouldn't make a difference. The difference in strength, however, is not.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@superlogi

Israeli women serve in direct combat units, and in four different special forces. Women in the Caracal Battallion, and I think the special forces units also, have to serve 3 years, to pay back their additional training. 51% of the Israeli officers are female, as is 33% of the force.

Currently, more than 26 countries allow women in direct combat, including Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Norway and Germany.

Furthermore, Israel, Turkey, Norway, Russia, Poland, India, China, Afghanistan, Korea and Britain have females in Special Ops. The U.S. just opened up Task Force 160, an aviation special ops force, to women.

Women serve as tank crews, submarine crews, paratroopers, artillery, infantry, and all the other combat specialties in various militaries around the world.

Rachel421
Rachel421

@superlogi Women have been conscripted into Israel's military for decades, many of whom are consigned into the infantry, where they may face enemy fire.  

I'm unaware of Israel being in a particularly safe part of the world, nor am I aware that Israel has decided it cares more for political correctness than its own safety.

So, what's your point about "social integration?"


atpcliff
atpcliff

@RugeirnDrienborough 

There have been large numbers of women in Iraq and Afghanistan who were placed, illegally, in direct combat roles, fighting alongside male infantry troops. Thousands, if not millions of women have fought throughout history.

Currently, throughout the world, women are in special ops, armour, submarines, artillery, infantry, paratroopers, and basically every specialty that exist. More than 26 countries have women as frontline, direct combat troops now.

superlogi
superlogi

@JohnRomano I'm sure one in a thousand can.  So by all means let's build the infrastructure, weapons systems and facilities to accommodate them.

emeraldseatown
emeraldseatown

@atpcliff Sending women into combat was not Plan A for the Soviet Union.  By 1942, the Red Army had suffered millions of casualties, and would send virtually anyone to the front who could shoot a gun.

In the US military today, a woman of equal talent might be qualified for infantry or sniping, but be following so many better qualified men that she would be lucky to be accepted for training, much less pass and serve in the combatant role.

MikkahStrong
MikkahStrong

@emeraldseatown But you miss the point. Rucksacks may indeed get lighter for the women. This means men will have to carry the extra weight to make up for the women who can not carry as much. I was in the infantry for eight years and I am not aware of any woman who is capable of carrying 120 pounds on her back for miles and miles.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@emeraldseatown 

WOW! That was THE best comment I have read on women in combat...and believe me, I have read a tonne of them over the past few days.

sacredh
sacredh

When my wife was younger, she knocked a cop off of a stool ( in a donut shop no less) with one punch to his jaw because he kept hitting on her. Women can be just as brutal as men.

AlexViada
AlexViada

@MikkahStrong @ThenAtlasSpoke This article was a complete throwaway, I agree with you both.  My fiancee and I both laughed at the line about "women being more nurturing"- I'm struggling to see the link between this and any conclusions regarding combat readiness or performance.

superlogi
superlogi

@atpcliff @superlogi Frankly, I could care less what Afghanistan, China or North Korea does.  What I do care about is military effectiveness and the ability to kill my opponent before he can kill me.  If he wants to use women in his combat infantry unit, that's fine by me.  But, had that been the case in 1968 with regard to the US military when I served, I wouldn't have enlisted.  Period.  Enough said, but if there is any doubt in your mind that allowing woman to serve in artillery, special ops or infantry units is a dumb idea, you're clueless.


PS Driving an airplane and climbing a mountain with 75lbs of equipment on one's back are two different tasks.  Obviously, your tiny little progressive mind can't grasp the difference or you simply won't admit it.

RugeirnDrienborough
RugeirnDrienborough

@atpcliff @RugeirnDrienborough 

I couldn't agree with you more. But did our military gather outcome statistics on those illegal situations? Did any of those numbers make it into the stats cited by our author? Has our author, or our military, gathered statistics on women's participation in combat elsewhere? The answers, as far as I know, are No, No, and No. Our author, and the US military, is in a whole new ball game here, and the stats cited by our author cannot possibly provide guidance on this subject.

That means the military is going to have to figure this out from scratch - or, heaven forbid, use information from other countries. Oh, no. We couldn't do that. Not invented here. Etc.

The bottom line is that this is going to be a tough haul. I think it will get done, and I think it will be a good thing, but the idea that the numbers our author cites are going to be either helpful or even applicable is bosh.

outsider
outsider

@superlogi @JohnRomano  

YEAH! They should be barefoot, and pregnant, standing at the stove, right SuperLogi? Not where the men are! 

Neanderthal.  I swear, all you do is complain about everything.

atpcliff
atpcliff

@emeraldseatown @atpcliff 

It doesn't matter if it was Plan A, or Plan Z. Women proved they could be ferocious, cold blooded, and smart soldiers.

Rachel421
Rachel421

@emeraldseatown @atpcliff Tell that to Israel, which has been conscripting females into its military for decades, many of whom are chosen for the infantry.

Or, are you saying that Israel stresses being "politically correct" over its own safety?  ROFL.


superlogi
superlogi

@Rachel421 @superlogi Of course putting women into combat infantry units will reduce military effectiveness and the safety of both men and women serving in it.  Have you ever been in the military?  Yeah, that's what I thought.  You know, before the early 70's corporal punishment was utilized quite often in both the Marines and the Navy boot camps, primarily to make men out of mama's boys in 10 or 12 weeks.  Then some Congress Women's friend's baby got his @ss kicked by a DI or Company Commander and it was banned.  I remember it well, because military discipline went right into the toilet shortly thereafter.  But, with regard to the Israelis, they're not quite as stupid as you seem to think.

"ISRAEL

The image of the gun-toting Israeli woman warrior is widely seen as the prototype of a gender-blind military. Reality is different. Israeli women are subject to the draft — but they serve two years while men serve three. Women were also barred from direct combat until 2000, when the first and so far only mixed gender infantry battalion was organized. The Caracal battalion, which is about 60 percent female, was assigned to patrol the relatively quiet borders with Jordan and Egypt. Still, more than 90 percent of Israel's military jobs are open to women — including high-risk posts such as air force pilots, air defense, naval gunboat crews, artillery and search and rescue. But the five major infantry brigades are still all-male."

It would appear, I won't need to write any letters to Bibi.  He already knows a woman's limitations.  Unfortunately, neither you nor the progressive pr!cks running things gives a wit.

PS  In case you're lost to the irony, that last website I posted for you to read, was written by a Canadian woman.


Rachel421
Rachel421

@superlogi @Rachel421 So you're saying that Israel is such a politically correct (and liberal) country, they're willing to sacrifice their own security for the sake of diversity?  Seriously?  You should write a letter to Bibi and explain that to him.  Be sure you cc me on that letter.

LOL.


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