As a majority, men have always been physically stronger than women. In that respect, they have served in areas in the military that have required a stronger physical role such as front line infantry and Special Forces. I have never served in the military, so this is coming from a purely research perspective. However, I have included writings from some very experienced soldiers, some who have gone through the grueling training to become a Special Forces Operative.
I don’t think that women should serve in the frontline infantry or the Special Forces; just like I don’t think women should have certain jobs as fire fighters. Who would you like to carry you from of a burning building; a big strong, burly male fire fighter or a very physically fit female fire fighter who can’t lift over 200 pounds? I’d choose the guy but maybe that’s just me. Some people prefer to be dragged on the floor where there’s less smoke, so let them chose the female firefighter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing women. I have the upmost respect for the female gender. My mother is one, my daughter is one and I hope to someday be married again to another one. I have no doubt that there are women out there who could out run and/or out lift me and could probably beat me in a hand-to-hand fight. However, that’s not the point. The point is: could women serve right alongside men in the frontline infantry and Special Forces?
In an article entitled “Gender Differences in Strength and Muscle Fiber Characteristics”, four researchers did a study that compared eight men and eight women. It focused on the two muscle groups of the biceps brachii (upper body strength) and the vastus lateralis (lower body strength). The study found that the women were 48% less muscular than men in the upper body and 36% less muscular than men in the lower body. The men were also stronger in relation to lean body mass. The women had 45, 41, 30 and 25% smaller muscle cross sectional areas for the biceps brachii, total elbow flexors, vastus lateralis and total knee extensors in that order. The testing data concluded that the greater strength of the eight men was due mostly to larger muscle fibers. The greater gender difference in upper body strength can most likely be ascribed to the fact that women usually have a lower quantity of their lean tissue dispersed in their upper body (Miller et al.,1993).
In other words, God created men to be stronger than women. In our ingrained physical and mental nature, we are the breadwinners of the family. We work for a living and provide for our family. If men don’t have families, we provide for ourselves. Women were physically created to bear children. I’m not saying that women are limited to just that. Some women live their whole lives without having children and remain single. They provide for themselves as well. The point I’m trying to make is that men are physically stronger than women. Because of that fact, we men carry the load of more physically demanding jobs (construction, fire fighting, certain military jobs) while women usually work for less physically demanding – but sometimes very mentally demanding – jobs (clerical work, secretary work, supporting functions, teaching).
Men are in no way greater than women. Because of the gender differences (physical, mental and emotional), men and women balance each other out in how they contribute to society, their families and the world. If the roles were reversed or of both genders worked in the exact same roles, it would create mass chaos.
So, back to the question, should women work in military frontline infantry and Special Forces? Take for instance Army Ranger qualification. All Special Operations units in the US military require stamina, strength, mental quickness and alertness. However, it boils down to one thing. If a Special Forces Operator doesn’t have physical strength – although they may still have all the other traits – they will not make it. The Army Rangers expects all candidates to score the following before attending Ranger School:
- 49 push-ups in 2 minutes
- 59 sit-ups in 2 minutes
- 6 pull-ups
- A two mile run in 15 minutes and 12 seconds
- A five mile run in 40 minutes
- A 16 mile hike with a 65 pound pack in 5 hours and 20 minutes
- A pass or fail 15 meter swim with gear
Once candidates complete the rigorous physical, mental and psychological qualification testing, they can then enter Ranger Indoctrination School. Ranger School is considered one of the toughest military special operations leadership schools in the world.
If you ask me, that’s a heck of a workout! And Ranger School qualification doesn’t just demand physical strength but also mental and psychological durability. Are there women who could pass this qualification test? Probably. Are there women who could complete the entire Ranger Indoctrination School and then graduate? As a matter of fact, two of them did.
On April 19, 2015, 19 female Army soldiers started Ranger School as a part of an experiment to see if females could actually pass the grueling 124 day course. Eight of the original female candidates passed RAP (Ranger Assessment Phase) Week at Camp Rogers. This is the “weeding out process” where usually 60% of the Ranger School candidates drop out. All eight women went to Camp Darby with Class 06-15 and were either recycled into Class 07-15 or dropped out. After another Darby Phase with Class 07-15, three remained in the course to start over (Mac, 2015).
About one-third of the Ranger students “recycle” through only one phase before they must drop out. The two remaining female candidates recycled through not just one but two phases of the course before effectively finishing the final part of Ranger School, the Swamp Course at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida (Fox News, 2015).
During RAP week with class 08-15, Ranger candidate Kristen Griest finished number two in the entire class for the 12 mile ruck – an amazing feat, bearing in mind that she had just accomplished RAP week, two Darby phases and another RAP week, all in a row. Captain Griest and 1st Lieutenant Haver made it through the rest of Ranger School with class 08-15, finally achieving their Ranger Tabs on August 21 (Mac, 2015).
Rudy Mac, one of the candidates who went through Ranger Indoctrination School 08-15 with female candidates Griest and Haver, wrote the following in an article:
“In Darby, the female students in our company dispelled any doubts of their ability to hump weight on patrols during the first few days in the field. If I remember correctly, Ranger Griest carried the M-240 [rifle] for her squad on day one of patrols and [Haver] carried the radio as the RTO [radio/telephone operator]. The next day of patrols, they switched, with Ranger Griest humping the radio and [Haver] carrying the M-240. Physically, they were studs. They carried their own weight and then some. We are universally in awe of what these two female Rangers have accomplished. Everyone I have talked to is of one mind. They earned it. Without the same wide shoulders, large frames, and high testosterone levels of their brother Rangers, they earned it.” (Mac, 2015)
What an amazing feat! Two females made it all the way through Ranger School! I know many guys who wouldn’t even make it past the qualification phase. Although they were allowed to recycle through twice instead of the usual one time, they made it. Rangers Griest and Haver, however, will not continue to be a part of an actual combat fighting Ranger unit. The test was just to see if a female was capable of making the cut – and two out of 19 of them did!
Making Ranger School available to female students is a part of an open-ended attempt by the US armed forces to make thousands of frontline combat MOSs (jobs) accessible to females. All branches of the US military have started establishing unbiased gender MOS requirements and assessing whether to suggest that current MOSs remain closed to women (Fox News, 2015).
The question is, “Can a female soldier be a part of a military Special Operations unit right alongside male Operators?” You readers already know that my answer is no. Military Special Forces schools are meant to prepare graduates for real world experiences. But as we all know, school is much different than reality. As we just discovered, females can pass Ranger School. However, how will they hold up in a firefight? In a fast-paced, adrenaline rushing, confusing, blood curling, ear splitting moment, could a female Special Forces soldier make that split-second decision that would save their lives and the lives of their fellow soldiers and complete the mission? They might be mentally capable, but are they physically and emotionally capable?
Nick Palmisciano things so. Nick is a graduate of West Point, the prestigious Army officer’s academy in New York and an Army Ranger veteran. In an article referring to his time at West Point, he states,
“The girls were all studs in their own rights, but in an environment dominated by alpha males, 88% of whom had captained a team in high school, they simply weren’t looked at the same way. They couldn’t run quite as fast, couldn’t do as many pushups, and in my day, they didn’t have to box like the men did. They were simply weaker. That’s just the way we looked at it, and West Point wasn’t really a place for weakness (Palmisciano, 2015).
“Over time, though, a funny thing happened. Some of these total stud guys started quitting. Yeah, they
were physical specimens, but between the ears, they just didn’t have it. But lots of my ‘weaker’ female classmates hung in there. By the end of plebe year [freshman year], things had changed. More and more, it had less to do with physical ability and more to do with moral courage and personal discipline (Palmisciano, 2015).
“By the time we graduated from that God-forsaken place, you had no choice but to love every last one of your classmates – man and woman, stud and less than, cool cats and weirdos alike, because to get through that place requires more intestinal fortitude than I can explain to anyone who didn’t go there.” (Palmisciano, 2015)
After graduation from West Point, Palmisciano was faced with an even harder challenge, Ranger Indoctrination School. During the first 62 days, he lost 55 pounds, fell from a mountain, had stress fractures in both feet, received scorpion and spider bites, had muscle tears, food poisoning, heat exhaustion, experienced extreme sleep deprivation and sank a boat. He graduated with his fellow Rangers from class 07-99 and vowed that if he was asked, he would never repeat the process ever again. However, as it turned out, he returned several years later as a member of the elite Ranger School Instructors (Palmisciano, 2015).
The two females who received their Ranger tabs in August are very similar to him. They also graduated from West Point and went through the grueling training it took to receive their Ranger tabs. When he got the news that they had failed the phase at Darby, he wasn’t too surprised. “Of course they did,” he commented, “When I heard everyone failed the second time, I said, ‘Of course they did. What did anyone expect?” (Palmisciano, 2015)
Then he heard that the two remaining females were getting a third shot at the Darby phase. However, he felt that they weren’t being treated special (Palmisciano, 2015).
Palmisciano explained, “If the cadre believes in a student, and the student is willing to accept a Day 1 recycle, they can get another shot. There is only one standard. The Ranger Standard. All the women didn’t get the third shot. If they had, everyone would know it was [crap]. The cadre had to bat for them (Palmisciano, 2015).
“A few capitalized on that third shot. They made it to Mountains. I heard through the grapevine that they had received solid peer scores. This was also awesome news. You see when you arrive at Ranger School, you kind of show up with friends. The Officers. The Bat Boys. The 82nd guys. The SEALS. But something magical happens as you go through it – the more you suffer, the more you start hating the weak links. You literally start hating them. It doesn’t matter if you drank every weekend together before Ranger School, if a guy was a spotlight Ranger or didn’t pitch in, they were going to get peered out. Officer, Bat Boy, 82nd…it didn’t…matter. If you were good, you were staying. If you weren’t, we kind of wanted you to die. That didn’t happen to these women. Their squad valued them (Palmisciano, 2015).
“Two women have endured over 120 days of abject misery to pass the most elite leadership course in the military. Two members of the long gray line are now Ranger Qualified (Palmisciano, 2015).
“And I’m proud of them beyond comprehension, but more than that, I’m blown away. I’m blown away, because I know how hard that school is. I know how much it takes out of you. I know how many times you feel like you might not make it, and you have to make the decision to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know how many times I wanted to quit (Palmisciano, 2015).
“And I also know that these two ladies are not men. They don’t have my frame. They don’t have my muscle mass. They don’t have my testosterone levels. Which means they hurt more than I did. Which means they had to dig deeper than I did. And they made it anyway (Palmisciano, 2015).
“And they suffered for four months to do it. And that means they’re tougher than I am. And that’s exactly who I want leading our soldiers (Palmisciano, 2015).
“Now, I don’t know what all of this means for the infantry, or by extension the [Special Operations] community. I am well aware that these are different things than passing a course. The Army will figure that out in time (Palmisciano, 2015).
“But what I do know is that the hate being leveled at these Rangers is unacceptable. We want leaders who push themselves beyond their limits. We want leaders who want to excel and develop every way they can. Whether the Army integrates units or not, that doesn’t change the fact that these ladies are hard as [heck] and are the absolute best America has to offer. They literally have no quit in them. So, as the proud saying goes, Rangers Lead the Way. And ladies, you just did.” (Palmisciano, 2015)
Craig “Sawman” Sawyer stands on the opposing side. He believes that women do not belong in military Special Forces. “Sawman” is a former Navy SEAL sniper. He began his military career in the US Marine Corps, then progressed further to the US Navy and became a SEAL. As an Operator in SEAL Team One, Craig first experienced combat in 1991 during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After he returned from deployment, Sawyer served as a SEAL Sniper Instructor until he was promoted to the national Special Forces development group (Tactical Insider, 2015).
Sawyer is an expert in various Martial Arts, as well as a trainer in SCARS (Special Combat Aggressive Reaction System), a unique hand-to-hand fighting technique used by Special Forces. He is also a highly trained boxer (Tactical Insider, 2015).
After serving in the Navy, he served as a field Air Marshall before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Sawyer still remains active in many quasi-military roles. He is an instructor in a variety of highly developed instructional schools in addition to other various tactical contract work. Craig Sawyer is currently in the limelight on TV, working on several tactical shows including Top Shot, Deadliest Tech: Special Ops, Sniper: Deadliest Missions and Top Guns (Tactical Insider, 2015).
In response to an article on NavyTimes.com about the Navy possibly opening SEAL training to women, he wrote the following:
“As a Navy SEAL Sniper, my ruck was routinely 120 pounds. My second line was another 50-60 pounds. My main weapon, if carrying the Tac-50 was another 30 pounds. I’m 6 ft, 220 pounds with a 33 inch waist. There were many times I could barely stand up with my own equipment on my back. I had to jump that gear from airplanes in the dark, lock it out of submarines and swim it into hostile countries, hump it through jungles, deserts and mountains for further than I’m allowed to disclose. I can tell you from sacrificing my health in that capacity for my country, that’s a brutally physical job, no matter how you slice it. It takes a brute to get those tools into a foreign country, not to mention actually winning the fight against their country’s fiercest Special Forces Units. Less than 1% of the fittest and baddest males are capable of making the grade (Sawyer, 2015).
“What if your 275 pound teammate goes down in a firefight? I can barely drag him out of there using all the strength and insane determination I have. The fact is, nobody less physically capable could get him to the helo to get him off target and back home. Does he deserve to have teammates he can save, but who could not save him? (Sawyer, 2015)
“There are jobs women can do better than men. I’ve seen it in the intelligence community and several other places throughout my career. Many women are impressively sharp, talented and have tremendous contributions to make to our nation. God bless them for it! I’ve been impressed many, many times. My own wife, for one unclassified example, can simultaneously type at full raging tilt, conducting real estate transactions while shaking her foot for the dog to play with and having an attentive, detailed conversation with me about my day!! I consider that a ridiculous miracle. I could simply never do that and I know it. I can’t even conceive of that level of multi-tasking, although it’s a somewhat funny example. God has made us the way we are, because he has a plan. That’s been my observation and it is my belief (Sawyer, 2015).
“I must say, though, that until women are directly and routinely competing with monsters like Mike Tyson for the world heavyweight boxing championship, UFC championships, competing very effectively with the NFL Superbowl champs, and competing directly with male heavyweight powerlifting champions, putting them in front line Spec Ops units that require they beat the most capable foreign Special Forces Units to death, even if hand-to-hand combat is required (and it has always boiled down to that historically) within a primal and necessarily physical profession, for our national security is…misguided. That’s the nicest term I can place upon such a supremely foolish development. This is a classic example of decisions being made by those who have zero concept of what it really takes to win a fight with no rules, in the dark of night, halfway around the globe, when our nation’s security is at risk and successful force is required to save the day, at all cost. Failure is not an option (Sawyer, 2015).
“When this kind of politics is involved, the standards are changed to fit the narrative, every time. In practical application in the real world, whether or not it is admitted to the public, the standards are forced down to accommodate the story. This ends up putting people in harm’s way who are not prepared. Catastrophe follows. US Army Col. David Hackworth wrote about this using the example of the mom who wrote her Congressman demanding her son make it through Special Forces training, then after political pressure was applied and standards were dropped to get her son through so he could have his fancy title, her son died in combat because he was in over his head. He didn’t have what it took. The standards would have handled that, if only allowed. What’s worse is he likely got some of his more capable teammates killed because they were counting on him to cover their backs as they had for him. The standards are never kept when politics gets forced into the matter. This brand of interference is expensive in the cost of lives, morale and unit effectiveness (Sawyer, 2015).
“Political Correctness is going to create a disaster here. Hide and watch. It’s not about any lack of respect for women, or their worth. It’s about the rational and responsible recognition of the factual genetic differences that make the sexes gloriously different. As someone who has a particular appreciation and respect for women and the contributions they make to bring us all into this world, nurture us into the people we grow up to be and keep us in check when we try stupid stuff, I can honestly say trying to force women into such an extremely physically demanding role as Navy SEALs will end in tragedy. Lord, forgive us for such Liberal/Progressive PC foolishness (Sawyer, 2015).
“National Security is not a game, nor a social experiment to make people who are created radically and marvelously different, feel ‘equal’ for the sake of the lost. Some of us understand our place. Maybe we should step back up and recover our country, because things have obviously gotten downright stupid. Here’s to those who keep it real and seek honest answers to how to best make our various contributions to our national security and our nation’s best interest! (Sawyer, 2015).”
I couldn’t have said this better! As someone who has never been in the military, I will never be able to state the obvious with as much experience and fortitude as Mr. Sawyer just did. He proves my point though. Although this is in no way trying to diminish women, they simply do not belong in Special Forces roles. Sure, they can fulfill other supportive Special Forces roles but they shouldn’t be the boots on the ground, completing the mission.
What about women in the military outside the USA? Is there a model that the US military can use in this ongoing attempt to place females in all military roles? Take Israel, for example. First of all, I completely support the right of Israel’s existence. As the only democracy in the Middle East, they stand as a beacon and example to the surrounding countries who are predominantly Muslim and support terrorism. Since the founding of the Israeli State in 1948, they have beaten the odds literally because of their fortitude, commitment, perseverance and mostly their belief in the most high God they call YHWH or Yahweh.
The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is the one of only three countries in the world (along with Norway [Reuters, 2013] and Eritrea [OHCHR, 2013]) with a mandatory military service requirement for women (IDF, 2010, Jerusalem Post, 2011, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2009). Women have participated in the IDF since the formation of the State of Israel (IDF, 2011). An astounding 33% of all IDF soldiers and 51% of its officers were women, in the year 2011 (IDF Spokesperson, 2011). These women fulfilled a number of jobs including ground, air and navy forces. In 2000, the “Equality Amendment” was passed that stated, “The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.” (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2009). Currently, 88 to 92% of all roles in the IDF are open to female candidates, while women can be found in 69% of all positions (IDF Spokesperson Unit, 2012, IDF, 2010).
There have also been many Israeli females involved in military aviation. In 1997, when the “Equality Amendment” started, the IDF made moves to change its guidelines regarding women in several highly desired frontline combat positions. In 2001, Lt. Roni Zuckerman became the fourth female to finish the formidable Israel Air Force training class and first ever to reach the rank of combat fighter pilot. Since the appeal by Alice Miller in 1997, 38 Israeli military females have received their pilot’s wings from the IDF. This group is comprised of 16 combat navigators, three combat pilots, seven helicopter pilots and twelve cargo pilots (Jewish Virtual Library, 2015).
Female special operators are also allowed in various positions in the IDF Special Forces. These include the YAMAG (Israeli Border Police), Unit 669 (Airborne Search and Rescue), YABAN (Navy Force Protection Unit) and the Oket’z (K-9 Special Forces Unit).
So what controversies have arisen in the IDF as a result of them including females in the majority of military roles, including frontline ground infantry? In his book, Stuart A. Cohen has countered that before the 1990s, there was a unanimous agreement in the IDF that “sexual prowess [went] hand in hand with military accomplishment”. Even when social viewpoints were evolving in the 1980s, the IDF still bent towards tolerance and a senior army official advised of not blowing the “topic out of all proportion” (Cohen, 2008).
In 1993, the Maariv reported that only 10% of about 1,000 reported cases of sexual harassment each year were investigated (Sered, 2000). According to the 1999 averages, there was one instance of sexual harassment involving women in the IDF every day. This was up drastically from the previous time a study was done in 1997. Between 1998 and 1999, 54 officers were discharged from the IDF on sexual harassment charges, while the others were either demoted or imprisoned (Sjoberg, 2010).
Several high profile sexual harassment cases in the IDF involving generals have resulted in the IDF being described by American writer and feminist Laura Sjoberg as a “hothouse for exploitive sexual relationships” and a military whose national security culture is based on “rampant licentiousness” (Sjoberg, 2010). Although her description is somewhat overstated, it does prove a point. Since then, the Israeli army has attempted to deter sexual harassment. However, it is still a problem. In 2004, it was estimated that 20% of all women soldiers in the IDF were victims of sexual harassment (Cohen, 2008).
What about women flying combat helicopters and fighter jets? Well, don’t be too hasty! That’s an issue for another
post! The whole point I am trying to make is that women are not physically (and some may argue they’re also not emotionally) put together to endure front line or Special Operations combat. Kudos to Captain Griest and 1st Lieutenant Haver for having passed Ranger school. Although they will have the honor of sporting the Range tab, personally I don’t think they’ll ever experience an actual combat mission. I spoke with a friend of mine who was in the Army during Desert Storm and he agrees with me. Having women in combat MOSs is a disaster waiting to happen. Although they might be able to physically meet the requirements, being mixed in with men on the front lines is just simply not a good idea. A front line soldier and a Special Forces operator needs to be concentrated on the mission. Although it will at first be denied, having females in their units will increase their awareness in other areas aside from what they were sent there to do.
I am 100% behind our men and women in the US armed forces. They put their lives on the line every day for my freedom. Without them, the bad guys they fight would probably come to the USA and we’d be fighting them here in our streets. The Israel Defense Forces are no different. The State of Israel has enemies on all sides and even within. Because of that, they have to be aggressive and proactive in their military actions. Throughout the 67 year existence of their modern state, they have been very successful in deterring attacks (sometimes coming from multiple directions). They are an example to the world that democracy works even in the ancient culture of the Middle East. They even have Muslim Arabs who live within their borders; some of whom even work in their government and military.
Although it is very necessary to place women in IDF combat positions, the Israel Defense Forces have proven that having women fighting alongside men in combat creates problems. Since they have passed the “Equality Amendment”, sexual assault in the IDF has risen to an all time high. In the US military, according to Newsweek in 2011, it is more likely that a female soldier will be sexually assaulted by another soldier than killed in combat (Ellison, 2014). A total of 25% of women in the US military have been sexually assaulted and an estimate of 80% have been sexually harassed (Meade and Glenn, 2013). One can only imagine how much higher these numbers will raise once more combat MOSs become gender-neutral and more women fill positions that were previously held by men.
Women help bring us into the world. They nurture us and care for us as we grow. Most provide a home for their families. Many women work in positions where they are very effective and successful. There are many overlapping jobs where men and women can be equally successful in. However, I believe that front line combat and Special Forces positions should be handled by men.
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