A Contrary Voice on Women in Combat

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Marine photo / Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

Marine drill Instructors train delayed-entry recruits, soon bound for boot camp, in Chandler, Ariz., Jan. 23.

Last month, outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta declared men and women would have the same chance to fight in combat for the first time in our nation’s history. But from the day they meet a recruiter, until the day they are discharged, women and men — in every service — have different physical fitness standards.

Stated simply, Panetta’s new policy violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, because women are held to lower standards than men for the same jobs, with the same pay, with the same potential for advancement — just because they are women.

For the last 65 years, the military has had dramatically different physical fitness standards for men and women. That’s based on the assumption that the jobs to which women are assigned do not require as much strength as those for men.

In my Marine Corps, for example, a female-officer candidate who scores 100% on the physical-fitness test would be ineligible to even be admitted to the service if she were graded as a man. I expand on this debate here, in the just-published March issue of Marine Corps Gazette.

Bottom line: equality should mean equality.

Birdzell served as a USMC infantry officer and special operations team leader from 2001 to 2009. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in security studies at Georgetown University.