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.



The marines have already lowered their standards for men, they allow 14,000 drug waivers a year.  The have to train the marines trying out for special ops (MARSOC) because they are all too weak to pass the test, and they let guys who Walmart wouln't hire into the marines and into special ops.

The fact that rape is such a problem in the military shows these men have no standards or honor.  Women shouldn't even be allowed in the military until they start allowing men in that don't rape.

I've seen the site about the US marines raping and you have become a disgrace.  What women would even want to be a part of what the military has become.

And why should a hand full of women wanting to go into combat cause the rest of us to sign up for the selective service?!



The comments belowe are simply untrue. Tired of posting this topic, like pushing back against an ocean of ignorance with a 6'x'6' piece of plexi glass. Women and men are very different, 3 decades of stuides have shown the vast physical differences, genetic pre-dispositions and none of their results have really been disputed, just ignore. Only about 1-1-1.5% of women will meet the male AVERAGE physical performance wise, that is biology and geneder, not wishful thinking. Read the UK MoD report from 2002', reviewed in 2010', the Presidential Report, LtCol. Gregor's writings and Kingsley Brownes as well. Then for kicks and giggles, check out recent PTSD, ortho studies on females and then add in the pregnancy and frat problems.

mtngoat, "effort" does not equal success, you are like the guy who wants everyone to have a trophy with that view, I prefer my folks to have the "ability" not the "effort" for a minimum.



If women cant pass the men standards then how come i can pass some of the PT fitness tests, my scores are not perfect but i'm only 14 and a girl....


I think everyone agrees that there should be a gender neutral minimum standard. If you meet the standard, then you can do the job.

The question that needs answered is whether or not physical fitness tests need grades or if they should just be pass/fail. Typically, these tests are graded and the grades are used in promotion calculation. Put another way, physical fitness grades are used to measure commitment and to some degree, combat ability: The harder a person works, the higher their grade will be. Put two soldiers side by side, one who only gets the minimum score, and one who gets the maximum, and then ask any soldier or marine which one they want to go into combat with. Knowing nothing else about the two, most people will pick the physical fitness stud.

Woman and men have different body types. No one argues this. That's not to say that some women can't be tougher than some men, but on average, men and women who spend the same amount of time on physical fitness will perform differently on tests (not always, but on average). So what does this mean? Well, there should be gender neutral minimum requirements that are tough enough to ensure everyone who passes can sustain the rigors of combat. That is currently not the case in the army. A soldier who scores the minimum on the Army Physical Fitness Test is not considered "good enough" for the infantry.

So, the military needs a gender neutral minimum standard that provides confidence in all who pass, but promotion points should be based on effort (men and women who work equally hard at physical fitness should get the same "score" as far as promotions are concerned.

joetheragman2 like.author.displayName 1 Like


Now that front-line infantry, armor, artillery and special operations jobs are open to female volunteers who can meet the physical requirements, it will be difficult for anyone to make a persuasive argument that women should continue to be exempt from registration, said Diane Mazur, a law professor at the University of Florida and a former Air Force officer.

“They’re going to have to show that excluding women from the draft actually improves military readiness,” Mazur said. “I just don’t see how you can make that argument.”

Groups that backed the end of the ban on women in combat also support including women in draft registration as a matter of basic citizenship. Women should have the same civic obligations as men, said Greg Jacob, a former Marine Corps officer and policy director for the Service Women’s Action Network. “We see registration as another step forward in terms of equality and fairness,” Jacob said.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., supports draft registration for women, according to his spokeswoman. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who heads the House Armed Services Committee, hasn’t made up his mind. McKeon said through a spokesman that he’s awaiting a Defense Department report due in the coming weeks that will assess the legal impact of lifting the ban women in combat on draft registration.


I want to see the gender norming standards. I want to see the updated concept of Sexual Harassment with forced nudity in a field environment. 


There is a difference between standards for physical fitness and standards for what is necessary to perform the job.  In almost all instances, the services have not yet made the effort to determine the skills and strengths needed for various combat specialties.  Instead they have used being male as a too-easy substitute.  If you are male, we'll assume you can do the job; if you're female, you can't.

The end of the automatic ban on women in combat specialties means that the services will now focus on what is necessary to do the job.  The fact that one service member can lift more than another, or run faster, will matter only if everyone, male or female, needs that minimum strength or speed to do the job.

Let's see who can do the job, not who can win fitness contests.  That's equality.

A former Air Force officer, current law professor, and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger"

JosephHamilton like.author.displayName 1 Like

As usual, "equality" is only for certain people - usually those who screech the loudest and longest.


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