GUEST BLOGGER, EMILY BARTON
Emily Barton graduated from UCLA with a BA in History in 2001. She received her commission as a United States Marine Corps (USMC) Officer in 2001 through Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC). She attended The Basic School in 2002 and earned her Naval Aviator Wings in 2004. She was selected to fly the CH-46E helicopter also known as the Sea Knight or Phrog. In 2005, she deployed from New River, North Carolina to the Al Asad Air Base located in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq with HMM-266 flying over 266 combat hours. In 2006, she deployed from Cherry Point, North Carolina to Al Taqaddum Air Base located in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq with VMU-2 as an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Mission Commander and flew over 126 combat hours with HMM-262 as an augment pilot. In 2008, she moved to Okinawa, Japan and joined HMM-262. In 2009, she was attached to the 31st MEU and deployed throughout the western Pacific, conducting exercises in the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea. She separated from the Unites States Marine Corps in 2010. She is currently a military spouse and stay-at-home mother to two daughters and is expecting a third.
On January 24, 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order to allow women to serve in ground combat Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) for the first time in U.S. military history. From the social media response, you would think that this is a groundbreaking moment in U.S. History. However, American women have been participating on the frontlines since 1792 when Deborah Sampson enlisted as a soldier in the Continental Army as a man. After 18 months and being twice wounded, her identity was discovered. General Knox quietly discharged her and she was awarded a pension by Massachusetts, saying “…Sampson exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her sex…”I could go on citing examples like the POW nurses held in the Philippines during WWII and Leigh Ann Hester, a Silver Star recipient and first woman ever to be cited for valor in close quarters combat, but I think my point is proven: Women are already in combat and have been since the United States started its fight for freedom and they are in combat in larger numbers than ever. According to the Defense Casualty Analysis System, from May 2003 to January 25, 2013, 151 women were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Panetta is talking about ground combat jobs (i.e. infantry, artillery, tanks), not just “combat”. These are the most physical jobs in the military. In the military, you do not choose your job. Your job is assigned based on the needs of the military, your capabilities, and last and certainly least, your desires. Does this sound “fair?” Well, as the Marines say, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” THE NEEDS OF THE MILITARY COME FIRST…and let’s not sugar coat it, that is WARFIGHTING, boots on the ground, close combat, killing while trying not to be killed. If someone is incapable of executing their job, people come home in flag covered caskets. In 1950, S.L.A. Marshal examined the load of the individual soldier. He cites multiple examples from the time of ancient Greeks to Napoleon to WWII, about how the physical weight that the individual carried was a decisive factor between victory and defeat. Marshall came to the conclusion that foot soldiers should train with gear no more than 1/3 their body weight and that should be reduced by 20% in combat. So if the average man weighs 180 pounds then his fighting load should be no more than 48 pounds. “According to a Naval Research Advisory Committee report, the average Marine carries 97 to 135 pounds in combat loads …the bulk of the weight carried is protective equipment.”
According to the CDC from 2003-2006, the average height of the American woman is 64 inches. According to the Marine Corps height/weight standards, the maximum weight a woman of 64 inches can be is 146 pounds. Which means an average woman would be carrying more than two thirds of her body weight in today’s infantry.
Katie Petronio, a Marine combat engineer, wrote an insightful article from personal experience about females and the physical stress of combat. “There is a drastic shortage of historical data on female attrition or medical ailments of women who have executed sustained combat operations. This said, we need only to review the statistics from our entry-level schools to realize that there is a significant difference in the physical longevity between male and female Marines. At [Officer Candidate School] the attrition rate for female candidates in 2011 was historically low at 40 percent, while the male candidates attrite at a much lower rate of 16 percent.”
Are there a handful of women who are capable of executing ground combat jobs? Yes…in fact, my husband and I came up with a list of five women that we knew personally that had the physical aptitude and mental temperament that would fit the bill. We have 24 years of military experience between us. Should America open up 230,000 ground combat jobs when there are only a handful of applicants that are qualified? Should we do costly studies and conduct expensive extra training for women who are not likely to complete it? No, especially when there are plenty of opportunities for women to serve their country in challenging billets and in combat. I speak from experience; I personally have 392 combat flight hours and have many female friends who have far more than I do. I am 67 inches and weighed 145 pounds while active duty and had a perfect Physical Fitness Test (PFT) score for women. I had a 1st class PFT score by male standards. From my training, I know there is no way I would be able to carry combat loads without fatigue affecting my ability to shoot and make combat decisions. I personally know women who are stronger and faster than me, but they would still struggle under a combat load. Hell, men struggle under a combat load. I have no doubt in women’s ability to handle the emotional and mental stress of combat. History has proved that. What is wrong with being physically different from men? Nothing. Women do not need to serve in direct combat roles to prove their worth in the US military. If women serve in direct combat roles the defense of America would be sacrificed at the altar of equality.