Women in combat wise experiment?

Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2013, 6:00 am
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By Col. (Ret.) Dave Shaver
When Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta dropped the bombshell of women in combat units, I was stunned that more work and studies had not yet been completed, but then again, I guess certain subjects can be studied to death.

In the Infantry units I served, women were relegated to limited rear echelon jobs. As time passed after the Vietnam War things slowly changed, which included more and more combat service support jobs for women in the logistics functions of supply, maintenance, transportation. More jobs for women opened up in combat support jobs such as signal (communications), military intelligence, engineers, aviation and others This trend has continued with more Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) opportunities opening up for women. But is it right to declare that women are now eligible to serve in front-line Infantry, armor and special forces units?

Some would argue that the military is being used for social experiments, and that is not right. But if the military shouldn't be used in such a way, would we have integrated the military as directed by President Truman in 1948? The fact is that we have used the military for many social experiments. Many have worked. Some have failed. And the jury remains out on others.

Women left their own Women's Army Corps (WAC) in 1978 to serve side by side with their male counterparts. That worked far better than all critics at the time thought it would.

I'm still not comfortable with other experiments such as allowing gays to serve openly. We already have a sexual assault problem in the armed forces -- over 19,000 complaints last year. Will we be adding same-sex assaults to that number in the future?

Same sex soldiers in uniform, kissing and holding hands in public on the way to gay marriages in uniform seems like a very stark social contrast when you consider our potential enemies punish such homosexual displays with death in much of the world, including Islamic nations and, more recently, such activities have been absolutely condemned in Russia. That's a lot of folks who say we are not right in making these social experiments part of our culture.

During the Iraq War, I wrote a column about a young female military police sergeant who saved many American lives by killing a horde of enemy combatants and winning the Silver Star.

It's not that I'm challenging the heroism, courage, reliability and competence of females in combat. They have been doing their jobs well for a long time. My concern is a two-pronged question of physical ability to handle the heavy lifting required by the many chores necessary to conduct infantry/armor operations, and of how we are going to prescribe the close combat personal hygiene tasks which must be performed in front of the opposite sex on the forward battlefield.

In the end we will find solutions to these issues which we cannot see today. Perhaps we don't have to change our training standards, as some would point out. Perhaps the way we fight will change with or without training standard modifications to accommodate female soldiers in these up-front, out-front units.

In any case we will have to make a few other changes outside of the Department of Defense. If women are allowed to serve in combat infantry units, they will logically have to sign up for the draft. Wow! What a cultural change!

Chivalry seems to only exist among our older generations today, so getting rid of gentlemanly displays of respect for ladies will probably disappear entirely with this new equality.

I hope not, but it's not my army anymore. I wish those serving today all the luck in the world. I will remain skeptical that the current, cultural, experimental changes we have made lately within our military will help us win the next war. In the interim, cheers for our next Amazon warriors!
Col. Dave Shaver is a retired U.S. Army officer and former tenured faculty member of the U.S. Army War College, where he held the General MacArthur academic chair of research; dshaver630@aol.com.


Local events heading

  Today is Friday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2014. There are 103 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Charles M. Osborn of this city, a lawyer of prominence, who voted for Lincoln in 1860 is now out strong for McClellan and will take the stump for him.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The George Fleming company had begun its dried fruit packing in a branch plant on 16th Street, Rock Island, employing nearly a hundred workers.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The cornerstone of the new Eagles home was laid. Building committee members were John Kobeman, Fred Ehmke and Frank Wich.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Former Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile, is sad as the Nazis march with communists.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Ninety-two members of the acappella choir at Davenport's West High School today accepted an invitation to perform at the New York World's Fair on June 13, 1965.
1989 -- 25 years ago: A Rock Island woman is one of 50 winners of $10,000 in cash in the Illinois State Lottery's "Celebration "89" instant ticket game. Dawn Loeffler was the third winner to be chosen through daily drawings that began Aug. 28 and will run 50 consecutive days.

(More History)