Saturday, February 2, 2013

Women in Combat?

Women in Combat?
The Obama administration, led by Secretary of Defence Panetta, is now pushing the introduction of women into combat roles in our armed forces  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/23/women-combat-pentagon-panetta-military/1860269/.    Republican Senator John McCain supports it.

Natalie De Winter writing in the Huffing and Puffington Post tells us to all just get on with it.  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/planet-ivy/women-in-combat-wont-work_b_2598140.html

Kathleen Parker declares that admitting some to combat will result in a lowering of standards  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kathleen-parker-combat-women-and-congresss-wimps/2013/02/01/d1a860ea-6cb2-11e2-bd36-c0fe61a205f6_story.html

Gayle Trotter suggests, "When you mix young women with fit young men, pregnancies are to be expected." http://news.yahoo.com/gayle-trotter-argued-against-women-combat-190010828--abc-news-politics.html

Kathleen Parker also writes that it may harm unit cohesion...http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/01/women_dont_belong_in_military.html

Is this a sound policy idea?  Does a woman have the upper body strength to drag her wounded male colleague out of a firefight?

What does history teach us on this subject?

Soviet Night Witch, World War II
I have written previously about the Soviet Night Witches, the 588th Night Bomber regiment, that served in World War II (See earlier post Night Witches of World War II, 6/28/12).  This was an all-female unit that flew antiquated Polykarpov biplanes that would harass the Wehrmacht, disrupting their sleeping hours.  The Night Witches  have been Ian Fleming's inspiration for Pussy Galore's Flying Circus in Goldfinger  (www.amzn.com/B001PO6FJ0) .

The effectiveness of women as Soviet snipers at Stalingrad and on the Eastern front is well-documented as well.  Women are proverbially more patient than men and a sniper's role demands great patience.

Violette Szabo,  1921 - 1945
There is also the poignant case of Violette Szabo (see earlier post, Violette Szabo, 6/26/12 ) who served in the SOE (Strategic Operations Executive) during World War II.  She had married a Frenchman (Etienne Szabo) who served in the Free French forces and was killed at El Alamein in 1942.  She was a single mother who joined the SOE and was dropped twice into Nazi-occupied France.  She was reputed to be "the best shot in the SOE." The Special Operations Executive, MRD Foot, 1984. (http:/www.amzn.com/0563201932)

After meeting up with French resistance forces, she was involved in a firefight where she killed and wounded several German soldiers before running out of ammunition.  She was captured, tortured, sexually assaulted. She was executed by a firing squad at Ravensbruck concentration camp in February, 1945.   Her corpse was incinerated.  She was 23 years old.

Violette Szabo statue, Lambeth, London
Photo courtesy: James Hooper
Szabo's daughter Tania was given her mother's posthumously awarded Croix de Guerre, but I am quite she that she would have preferred a living parent.  The price of heroism is paid not only by the hero.

History teaches us that women ARE fully capable of combat.  That is not really the issue.  The real question is...

"Is it desirable policy for women, the biologically more important gender, to be subject to the hazards of combat alongside men?"

Commander Kelly (whose only combat experience is in paintball skirmishes) asks, "Do we really want to multiply the potential fate of Violette Szabo through the ranks of American women serving in the armed services?  Is this sound military strategy or are we merely kowtowing to the gods of political correctness?"

As always, comments most welcome!

For further reading check out Bing West's article...http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1373.






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4 comments:

Paul Windels said...

Well done! I think the key issue is this -- how do we react to women combatants who have been captured and raped (& worse)? If our reaction is of such outrage that we would take steps to rescue them beyond what was militarily prudent and advisable, such as was the case with Patton making an ill-advised attempt to rescue a relative being held in a POW camp in WWII, then we shouldn't do it. If we're willing to treat that situation the same as if they were ordinary POW's, and either be hard hearted or the next version of Tex Antoine, then we should go ahead. I'd like to hear from the advocates of women in combat how they would feel -- and none of this "No Ranger ever gets left behind" garbage that got us Black Hawk Down. Cheers.

Tony said...

Outstanding article by Bing West (see link above)!! He hit the nail on the head. I've heard that one of the reasons for pushing women in ground combat is so that they will be more competitive for promotion to include making General. That doesn't make sense to me as women are already serving in combat zones in support roles as are many men who serve in combat zones in MOSs which are support roles. As I recall, fitness reports have a special box to mark to show that the report was made while that person was serving in a combat zone. That should be enough to make them competitive for promotion. In my opinion, use women and men where they will enhance our ability to fight and win wars.

Bill Funk (USMC ret.) said...

I recall hearing the news in 1967, while serving in the Corps as a Platoon Commander, that women were being admitted to TBS (The Basic School, at Quantico, where young Second Lieutenants are sent for training to become Platoon Commanders. I think I was going through Jungle School in Panama - if not there, it was in the field in Viegas, P.R. Regardless, I was in the field with my men. I remember thinking, "How the hell are they doing this?" My interest was more from the logistics, the potential sexual aspects, etc. rather than the physical capability of women aspect. Women then, with rare exception, were not the women of today in terms of physical strength and ability. For example, in college, I only came across one woman who played a sport and that was field hockey and that was at a university of 30,000+!!!! My assumption was that the physical demands were adjusted or waved. BTW, and sort of related, there was a Japanese American in my OCS (Officer Candidate School, which precedes TBS) who washed out only because he could not make it over the wall on the Obstacle Course (It was about 10 or 12 feet tall and you ran at it, slammed one leg into it and leapt for the top, grabbed it and hoisted yourself over it). I doubt that a woman could have done that, but could be wrong. So anyway, my assumption about women Marines was that they were simply going through a modified program to serve in a different capacity and I think I was right. Still, I thought "Holy C-rats!" "What if I had women in my unit right then?" We had enough problems keeping the men out of trouble as it was with racial, discipline, drugs, etc. problems.
- Okay, flash forward 46 years and what do you have? Women with incredible physical strength, endurance and stamina, much stronger leadership skills and lighter, high tech weaponry, etc. so, it is a lot more feasible on a comparative "then and now" basis. BUT, there still are issues that have not changed that covers a wide range, which for brevity I won't repeat. The article below covers them as do my fellow Marine's comments. Still, one could argue comparatively, women as armed and patrolling police. It works. Remember, at the end of the day, the ultimate physical requirement is only the trigger finger.
- My view? I agree with my friend that their combat place should be restricted to "small special ops involving quick, in and out operations - not company sized actions. I think the initial concern of acceptance of a mutilated or killed female warrior is long past. Still, issues of strength are there, related to aid and assistance capability like the "Fireman's Carry," etc. but...
- The whole issue sadly reeks of politics, and a whole array of it at that. Votes to capture, rank to be obtained, etc. My opinion, like my fellow Marine below is DO NOT MODIFY STANDARDS, use any and all where they can be efficient and make no exceptions. Serve, where and how to serve best. Just like my fellow OCS candidate who could not make it over the wall was rejected and deemed not acceptable as Officer material, the same should apply to others who cannot meet the standard. BTW, I have never forgotten that young Japanese American. He tried so hard to serve his country when the majority in those days chose protest, avoidance or asylum. I had and still have great respect for him. The irony is that he was acceptable as an enlisted man, but not as an Officer. One area where the Marines differ is that they go to extreme length to avoid any elitism from rising in the Corps. ALL Marine Officers are trained to be Platoon Commanders. Everyone is a rifleman. They look down on the Army and their divisions and categories, e.g. Special Forces, Delta Force, Airborne, Rangers, Combat Badges, etc. the closest we have is Recon, but they are not eulogized or distinguished. If I ever finish my book, there is a chapter about that and my experience at confronting it.

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