FEMINIZATION OF THE MILITARY?

StrategyPage has the following:

There is a growing feeling among U.S. generals and admirals that the “feminization of the military” which took place during the 1990s has done serious and long lasting damage. This has expressed itself in many ways. The marines, which successfully resisted the worst aspects of feminization (training male and female recruits together in boot camp, lowering standards to accommodate women’s different physical and psychological capabilities, forcing NCOs and officers to insure that women succeeded whether the women were capable of some jobs or not) are seen as the one service that successfully integrated more women into its ranks. But the marines took a lot of political heat for doing things their way, particularly when Bill Clinton was president.

Perhaps more telling, the army was appalled at how many of their non-combat troops were ill-prepared for combat when they ran into ambushes during recent Iraq fighting. In past wars, the non-combat troops were much better at dealing with this sort of thing. Questioning the non-combat troops revealed that there had developed an attitude of “we’re not really soldiers, we just look like them” among a generation of troops. These men and women had gone though watered down basic training and served under NCOs and officers more concerned about being politically correct towards female troops than making sure everyone was combat ready. The marines never compromised on their rule that “every marine is a rifleman.” The women got extra training if they needed it, but it was understood that they would be able to do what had to be done if they got involved in a fire fight. And that was how it played out in Iraq.

Perhaps the most galling sign of a growing problem appeared when the Air Force recently ran an opinion survey among cadets at the Air Force Academy. Some 40 percent of the cadets, both male and female, felt that the physical and psychological differences between the sexes made complete acceptance of women in the military unlikely, ever. Among male cadets, twenty percent felt that women don’t belong at the academy at all. The survey showed that the longer cadets were at the academy, the more cynical they became about all the rules and regulations in place to make sure women are “treated equally.” Senior cadets are much less likely to believe in the “Honor System” (turning in others for violation of regulations) than freshmen. After a year or two at the academy, most cadets realize that the way the system is supposed to work, and the way it actually does, is quite different. This experience is common in the other services, except in the marines. Back in the 1990s, one Department of Defense political appointee noted how the marines marched to their own music and called them “extremists.” The marines took it as a compliment.

Of course, the Air Force Academy appears to have problems with women more serious than just this survey.

This analysis strikes me as overblown, although with some merit. Clearly, two sets of standards have been the norm for some time. The Army Physical Fitness Test is the most obvious example. This statement from the ROTC home page is indicative:

A male between 17 and 21 years old should arrive at college able to do 42 push-ups, a female 18 push-ups.

A male needs to be able to do 52 sit-ups and a female 50 sit-ups.

A good time for the two mile run for a male would be 16 minutes and for a female 19 minutes.

Indeed, the current standards–for both sexes–are much, much lower than even when I was taking the test from 1984-92. When the APFT came on line in October 1986, replacing the APRT, the standards to “max” for a 17-20 year-old-male were 82 pushups, 97 situps, and a 12:54 2-mile run; the standards for a female of the same age were roughly the same as for a 52-year-old man. Now, a male can max with 71-78-13:00, which is roughly what the standards were pre-1986. A female needs only 42-78-15:36. (I note that situp standards are now identical; interesting.)

The 1990s did see an increased pace of gender integration into formerly all-male bastions of the armed forces. And, while I heard reports of standards being lowered, notably for female fighter pilot candidates, they don’t seem to have been substantiated by lowered female performance in combat operations.

The Marine Corps has always been a different kind of unit than the Army, with much tougher overall physical standards. Part of that has to do with a cultural mindset; but it mainly has to do with different missions. The Army has to be self-sustaining and has a huge “tail” of support troops. Support troops, contrary to the “Old Army” myth typified by the StrategyPage blurb, have always been rather poor infantrymen. The training, selection standards, and motivation are simply different.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tom Royce says:

    After reading this article, it got me to thinking about the Rangers. Are there any female Rangers? I have spent the last few years in and out of Columbus Georgia, home of Fort Benning, and I do not remember seeing any women with crew cuts around town.

  2. James Joyner says:

    TR,

    No female Rangers or, indeed, infantry or armor branch soldiers.

  3. JohnC says:

    <heh> Yea, they sure were a bunch of panty waists during Afganistan and GW II. Geesh.

  4. Leo says:

    Looking at female police officers, quite frankly…(This from a civilian police sergeant)

    They do reasonably well. They are self selected, and generally work harder.

    Of course, police officers are a bit different, particularly in CONUS.

    Oh well, I do understand the problem, this is just a chucked in bit.

    Leo

  5. Leo says:

    Looking at female police officers, quite frankly…(This from a civilian police sergeant)

    They do reasonably well. They are self selected, and generally work harder.

    Of course, police officers are a bit different, particularly in CONUS.

    Oh well, I do understand the problem, this is just a chucked in bit.

    Leo

  6. Paul says:

    Questioning the non-combat troops revealed that there had developed an attitude of “we’re not really soldiers, we just look like them” among a generation of troops.

    My brother recently retired after 20 years active duty and I can tell you many people in his unit feel this way. (male and female but more female)

    There was one girl in his unit that was so freaked that she had to go to GERMANY during Gulf 1 that she got herself pregnant. (not a rumor, she did it proudly)

    I just reject that their should be different standards. A U.S. soldier should have a certain level of physical ability regardless of gender.

    To sound like the right winger in the room… As RL says:

    The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. When you lower the standards to allow in those less capable, you can kill less people and break less things.

  7. Tubby says:

    I wonder why the media does not refer to, “The men and women terrorists.” Seems only fair since they CONSTANTLY refer to “The men and women of our military.” And this wouldn’t be so annoying if they didn’t add recently, “the men and women who captured Sadamm.” I am so sick of this PC crap! There were not any women who took part in the physical capture of Sadamm. Further, it is pure folly to ever expect that women will be anything but a hindrance in combat. No one has yet given me a good answer as to how the inclusion of women in combat or combat related roles increases the effectiveness of our military……………because it does not and never will. If women want to bitch about it then don’t blame conservatives, blame your creator.