Home » Education Legislation » Marine, Army Leadership Panel to Senate: Women in Combat Jobs Need Standards, Not Quotas


Marine, Army Leadership Panel to Senate: Women in Combat Jobs Need Standards, Not Quotas

U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley Hort keeps her weapon at the ready as she provides security for her fellow soldiers during a raid in Al Haswah, Iraq, on March 21, 2007. US Army Photo

U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley Hort keeps her weapon at the ready as she provides security for her fellow soldiers during a raid in Al Haswah, Iraq, on March 21, 2007. US Army Photo

Setting standards and maintaining them, rather than establishing quotas for women in ground-combat units, was the consensus that emerged between the testifying service witnesses and members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

“I want every Marine to succeed,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said, as the Corps moves forward to implementation. “There’s a lot of pieces [still] to study” as the Marine Corps and the Army move to integrating women into all specialties in ground-combat units.

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), chairman, noted he supported the announcement of opening these positions to women but wanted to “do the right thing in the right way” in implementing yet not rushing decisions on how best to integrate females into what had been all-male units.

Following its own study, the Marine Corps had asked for an exception to some ground combat positions. The announcement on gender integration was made by then- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in 2013. About 250,000 military skills in every service and Special Forces are involved.

The Marines sought the exception based upon the performance of integrated units versus all-male units in a study conducted at the Marine Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C. The all-male units performed at a higher level than integrated units in 69 percent of the 134 tasks evaluated, Neller told the panel.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who several times during the hearing had to explain why he would not grant the Marines an exception going forward, said the integration of women in those combat positions was “putting policy in line with what already is reality.”

Later, he said the integration was “about equality of opportunity” and standards “have got to evolve for everybody” as threats change.

Mabus added that the nine-month study by the Ground Combat Element Integration Task Force “deconstructed every job” with the goal of examining how an individual’s skills would help Marines “to function better as a team.”

A female Marine participates in Infantry training in 2013. US Marine Corps photo

A female Marine participates in Infantry training in 2013. US Marine Corps photo

“Lowering standards would be unacceptable to every Marine,” he said.

There is a “tendency to equate warfighting capability with physical capability,” ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, (D-R.I.) said. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“Mean body mass has an impact on your ability to carry a load,” Neller said in answering a question later in the hearing about the study results. “There are things you can train to” and better conditioning can mitigate injuries to lower extremities, but there is a physiological dimension of being able to carry heavier loads, run faster, and so forth, that needs to acknowledged.

Neller said, in answering another a question about the study, “From what we can tell no one ever looked at [ground combat] in this way,” including interviews with Canadian, United Kingdom, Australian and Israeli military counterparts over gender integration. “We will see where the chips fall.”

“We have to be successful on the battlefield,” he added, and said he was “confident we will be in the future.”

Mabus said the Navy Department has a great deal of experience in gender integration. Using warfare qualifications in the submarine force as an example, he said, “Women earn their ‘dolphins’ at the same speed as the men do.” The Navy is now beginning to place enlisted women aboard attack submarines.

For Marines, Neller said, the Corps has learned much in opening up combat units to women. “The talent pool has expanded,” he said by having women serve in intelligence, communications and motor transport positions in infantry units.

Opening all positions in the services to women likely would lead to an increase in female recruits in joining the services without decreasing quality, the witnesses agreed.

When asked by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), whether women should be required to register with the Selective Service, Neller said, “Every American who is physically qualified should register for the draft.” Mabus said it was time for a national debate on the issue.

McCaskill said she favors having women register and that by doing so it could be seen as a career opportunity.

Although no women have yet graduated from the Marine Infantry Officer Course, Neller said, “There is no effort to deny anyone a chance to compete” for admission. Twenty-nine attempted the course. He added that Marine Corps recruiters have been told to look at increasing the percentage of women in the service from 8 percent to 10 percent.

Mabus said the Navy Department has sent its implementation plan to the secretary of Defense for his approval, but has not had a response. When approved, the plan is to be put into the field on April 1, but how quickly all positions would open is up in the air. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff, said that his service will need possibly three years to integrate women into all armor and field-artillery positions.

  • Michael Thornton

    SecNav Mabus is taking an early lead in this year’s Dumbest Elected Official competition I see… I wonder what reality he exists in!

  • Hugh

    My father was a British Army Officer in France in WW1 & 2. Simply horrific periods. I spent 50 years as a civilian engineer with the Australian military (my eyesight was too poor to have me in uniform). I was taught to respect & protect women. Women should NEVER be sent into front line fighting.

  • Michael D. Woods

    If you increase representation from a weaker population, the average strength will decline. To maintain average physical strength, you’d have to raise the minimum. For example, an artillery gun crew can function fine with one member near minimum strength, but how about when there are two or three?

  • Russ Neal

    It’s nice that he wants standards, but he’s going to get quotas.

    • Danny Lewis

      Yup. That increase from 8% to 10% is a quota increase not an “opportunity” increase. Once again the lefties in this country have temporarily made our armed forces a social entity. A feel good place for opportunity to advance.

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    “Later, he (Mabus) said the integration was “about equality of opportunity” and
    standards “have got to evolve for everybody” as threats change.” That, folks, is the money quote. May I be so courteous as to correct some verbiage to more accurately reflect SECNAV’s real meaning…”evolve” to “devolve.” Also, there is something missing from his statement – you know those combat effectiveness and mission success thingies. Comparing bubble heads to Infantry Marines earlier in his statement is pathetic. Not. Even. Close. Ray, all the dead comrades of the old guard are smiling up at you for doing what they could not accomplish. Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Mao, etal; they send you their very best.

    • Publius

      RIGHT ON! Obama politics will destroy our armed forces. Obama: Our nightmare is coming to an end.

  • CaptainParker

    Eyewash. When and where necessary, standards WILL be changed to guarantee increased gender integration. These civilian secretaries speak with forked tongues – but they will have their bragging rights at those toney Georgetown wine-and-cheese parties.

    • 1775

      You cannot have a 25% increase in each service, as ordered by the Obama Administration, without lowering the standards. The Corps has 5-7% females.

  • 1775

    Why do they always leave out what was really said in the hearings? Wait, agenda building….

  • ADM64

    Standards have been changed in every other area of the military that has gone coed, and quotas have been called for in the Navy by, amongst others, the VCNO, herself the recipient of those lowered standards. After Karla Hultgren, Etta Jones, and Holly Graf, and others, there’s a clear pattern of behavior, so the claim that standards will be maintained is laughable.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    I was talking to my daughter (Army 25B) about this. and she was telling that in doing advance Combatives training before her baby. she gain muscle in places she never knew but it put her over the body weigh for her height. My Son is an MP and at 6′ 180 she made him work for it, when they were sparing. Good thing they were wearing protective equipment. So even though at 5’5″ and a 152 pounds, she was able can carry a 200 pound man in a fireman’s carry or a hundred pounds of gear. but she the army says she is over weight but has a wavier right now since the grandson was born. Now she is working to get back into shape to do Combative Tournaments again. Many of her female comrades in Airborne Units, work to bulk up and muscle up so they can preform the mission. Military needs to change height and weight standards.

  • CaptainParker

    Mabus is illustrative of the politicians who lack the backbone to stand up to the feminist harpies who want complete and total gender equality, even when one gender is not qualified for many of the tasks both physiologically as well as psychologically. Any facts that contradict his marching orders from his political superiors is simply ignored and dismissed out-of-hand. When I served we had a term for his explanations and reasons – “eyewash.”

  • P3CPilot

    No one learns from history. There are excellent descriptions of women in combat and other critically exposed positions in Max Hastings’ recent book about WWII, The Inferno”. Brutal is a mild term to describe the issues and problems. I would bet a week’s pay that these “leaders” of the executive branches responsible for integrating women into the armed forces do not have daughters. I have three. I am a veteran; a naval aviator; and an intelligence officer. The people leading this country are, putting it in the simplest way I can, idiots, with no common sense and only political correctness and “equality” or “equality of opportunity” in mind. There is no equality in a foxhole and certainly none in a prison camp and certainly none in a submarine under attack. God save us from these fools.

  • Papasan Pauly

    It’s time to get real with this. My wife is a disabled career Navy Seabee while I work construction which is as mentally challenging and physically demanding as Marine Infantry minus all the ugly. We both did multiple deployments but the difference is my basketball queen played hard to build her stamina and wind while I was in the gym building body strength and bone mass. In the end dodging snipers and mortars wearing all that battle rattle 24/7 wore her body out prematurely exactly like it did so many of our Women Seabee and WM friends. Big difference between training in the field three to four times a month and actually living in it deployment after deployment.

    The kicker is most are now in their thirties and the ones who weren’t medically discharged back then are now showing up at their local VA’s with shoulder, back, knee and ankle injuries. They’re not looking for money, they just want to be fixed so the pain will go away but there isn’t much VA can do so the Sisters are stuck having to live with worsening physical conditions for the rest of their days. Helluva thing for any warrior to live.

    DoD needs to slow this down and train the women warriors up right otherwise this tragic process will continue to repeat itself until it’s done correctly. If the politically correct and politicians want this so badly then let them sign up and live with the consequences of their folly. Better them than us.

  • ADM64

    In less than 10 years we went from having no space program to a man on the moon, and we did that with slide rules and computers that took up full buildings but had less power than a smart phone. In 40 years, we have yet to come up with gender neutral standards for the armed forces. The problem is not the difficulty of the question, but of the answer. And the answer is that less than 2% of all women compare physically to the average man, so any gender-neutral performance (not physical “fitness”) standard will disqualify virtually all women, and the women one gets won’t be Xena. That’s too few for the critical mass that everyone says we need for acceptance by the men – and which somehow won’t mean quotas. And, that’s your answer.

    Moreover, standards have changed everywhere. How many women at sea could lift an unconscious, average size man, off the deck and carry him fireman style up a ship’s ladder? How many can do a two-man stretcher carry?

  • Wardog00

    Standards will be great, so long as there is only one and not the physical fitness dual standards of today.