Tag Archives: army

Combat Zone Vs. Combat Arms Explained

The argument for women in the infantry since the lift of the ban of women in direct combat of January of this year, has mostly been that criticizing the con side as being mostly a semantic argument.  “The women are already in combat” they say, “So why not let them be combat arms”, they ask. 

This is because people don’t know what the hell they are talking about


This kind of thing is really what voters think the fucking problem is, and that thought process is what the problem is.  The popular argument is women are already there.  They are.  Orderlies are in a hospital too, that doesn’t mean they should do surgery.

Now if the problem the opponents of women in combat arms were claiming that women don’t have enough heart, or somehow will fall down and cry at every broken nail, then it would be an open and closed discussion.  That’s not the issue.

People watch war movies and think that combat is all about getting shot at and not being afraid or something, I don’t know what.  Most war movies are made by people who have never even handled a gun, let alone done a tour of duty.

The first thing people have to understand is that when a soldier says put the good of the Army first, they mean just that.  It probably goes even farther for the Marines, but every time I ask, someone just tells me I can’t handle the truth, and I roll my eyes and walk away.

Putting the Army first, (or the corps) doesn’t mean saving a battle buddy or don’t leave a fallen comrade, it means putting the army before self.  If that means going along with something that is better for the machine, but worse for the individual, the individual is supposed to soak it up and drive on.

When Obama told the US voters that the last combat troops were out of Iraq, and the media was filming the return of the last combat troops, my unit was camped out over an oil deposit in Iraq about a half marathon from the Iranian border.  The big difference was Obama changed our name to “Advise and Assist” troops, mainly meaning as far as I understood that we weren’t allowed to shoot first.  That put us at more risk, but the Army told us to do that, and that it was good for the Army.  That’s putting the Army first.  Jessica Lynch knowing full well and saying she didn’t deserve any combat decoration, then taking the bronze star while smiling for the cameras, while the press spun a complete soup sandwich into a case of a heroic woman, that was putting the army first.  Officers call it falling on their sword.  Enlisted guys call it taking one for the team in a more colorful way that also involves impalement.

Another example is when they set up two different physical standards for male and female soldiers.  That way the Army could play politics and let women in to get the benefits of joining the Army like the GI bill and job training.  The compromise was that women wouldn’t be allowed to serve in job roles where physical strength is part of combat.  Those series are 11, 13, and 19.

11 series are infantry.  The ability to run fast and carry lots of weight are key to combat for them.  A male soldier needs to do 42 pushups in two minutes not to be thrown out of the army for being physically deficient.  His female counterpart only needs to do 19.  That’s because male soldiers have more upper body strength than women.  A female solider also gets another 3 full minutes on the two mile run test to get a passing score.  That means a score that would be a failing score for a male would almost be a perfect score for a female, who can pass with a 9 and a half minute mile pace.

To put things in perspective that’s slower than these women are moving.

That’s the standard for someone unarmed wearing sneakers.  The infantry doesn’t fight in sneakers.  The average troop wears more than 100 pounds of gear.  That’s a female MP just currently riding in an air conditioned truck on patrol.  Infantry soldiers setting up an ambush need to carry a lot more.  I remember one where everyone was carrying about 150 pounds because they had to have food for three days, 2 gallons of water, I had to carry my full medical bag, and the other guys had to spread out the weight for the heavy machine gun ammo.  It’s a physically demanding job that requires strength and speed in a way that the women in the combat zone as MPs or truck drivers patrolling mounted just don’t require.  Also the farther the infantry gets from trucks, the longer the haul is for carrying casualties.  Women who can barely run before the 150 pounds is added aren’t going to be able to carry another 150 on top of that if they have to 2 man carry someone out.  It’s not about smeared mascara from crying, or whatever else, the physical standards to which women in the services are held just doesn’t facilitate combat operations of this type.

Combat operations that involve mounted transport are suited to women as well as men, and in all reality may be more dangerous jobs than the prohibited types.  No one thinks a woman is incapable of dying in service to country.  Most insurgents would probably rather hit a tanker truck full of diesel fuel than a bunch of sneaky infantry types moving out in the middle of the night with night vision, tanks, or artillery cannons.

The other two series are 13 which is artillery, and 19 which is armor.  13 series types have to load 100 pound rounds, by hand, as quickly as possible.  19 series types have to sometimes in hostile territory, “break track” which means they have to remove the track from the tank and replace broken sections or put a thrown track back on the machine.  The track on a tank is really heavy and no matter how much competence, courage, or heart a troop has, they can either lift it or they can’t.  If they can’t they are leaving 2 tanks as sitting ducks while another tank crew has to assist them.  That’s half the tank platoon of 4 out of commission because someone is in a job they can’t do.

It’s not like they can just wait on the side of the road to be picked up by AAA.  Also unlike the movies where tanks can jump over mountains and drive through buildings unscathed, tanks throw track all of the time.  I once in a training exercise saw the tracks of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle so completely immobilized by running over a common item that can be purchased at any hardware store in North America I wondered why the enemy even bothered trying to disable them with bombs.

The point is these three jobs women are prohibited from is because of practicality, not because of sexism about the enemy spotting their shiny eyeshadow.  The military already trains to separate standards to accommodate women.

Putting women in these roles with the current standards is going to cost US lives while bringing little to the Army.  It will be great for Hollywood who can make more nonsensical war movies where women are the heroes and no one ever has to run very fast or carry too much.

There are already two sets of standards.  How many sets of standards can the Army have before the standards are just soldier suggestions?  The Army has a history of doing what is good for the army not for some of the individuals in the Army.  When it comes to women serving, the standards are always lowered so women succeed due to political pressures.  The Army does what’s good for the Army.  The Marines on the other hand, maintain standards across the board, and women simply can’t meet them.  Changing the system to make room for the .1% who can make it out of the 16% of the army that is female is going to inevitably lead to lower standards and people will die over this.  This is not hyperbole, and it’s not an overreaction, in combat, away from support where combat arms goes, physical strength is a key component in saving lives, and women don’t have it which is why the physical standards for women in the army are half that of men’s standards.  That’s why women can be MPs and be behind the turret all up and down the street, but can’t be artillery loaders who are usually shooting from the base behind the wire.

It’s not a sports team.  They can’t be put on the bench if it doesn’t work out.  Women should be allowed in the 3 combat series when the first woman is a starter on a MLB team.  Otherwise those soldier’s blood will be on everyone’s hands, so that we can puff our chests that in the US we don’t make decisions about someone’s ability based on gender, even if science factually suggests otherwise and common sense agrees.