Sacrificed at the Altar of Equality: A Marine’s POV


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.




  1. Tanya says:

    Well said Mrs Barton! Thank you for your service in the USMC. Your outlook are my exact thoughts and I appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts! Also, Thank you Kira for posting this article!

  2. Judy Gasik says:

    It helps enormously to get the take of a woman who’s actually served. What particularly resonated for me were your stats about the average height and weight of women in the service. Carrying two thirds of their body weight in combat gear doesn’t sound like a good idea, does it? Thanks for a great contribution to the conversation.

  3. Tracy Coyle says:

    I support women in combat roles, period. For all the reasons Mrs Barton suggests and my own experiences in the AF. I also demand that the standards not be changed for those positions to accommodate women. If we can meet the standards, and some of us can (ok, not me anymore but back in the day…!), then there should be no reason those that WANT and are ABLE to serve should be limited from doing so.

    • Emily Barton says:

      Tracy, how much infantry training have you received and what are you basing your experience on? I would imagine none as the Air Force has no infantry, not even for their men. Every Marine, cook and all, male and female, go to basic infantry training and are considered riflemen. Every officer, male and female, accountant and pilot, go through 6 months of TBS and come out as a provisional rifle platoon commander. Additionally, do you propose making it mandatory for all women to register for the draft as men do?

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      Emily, I was an air traffic controller and CATC went through Ranger training, so I am aware of a level of training that matches and surpasses general infantry combat training. I knew those guys personally.

      And yes, I am suggesting women be required to register with the selective service. As we both know there are literally hundreds of jobs that support the field that are just as necessary as combat jobs. Not every man can serve in a combat role.

      As for the idea that the military is going to reduce much as it pains me, you’re damn right they are and it will get men and women killed for doing so. Just like politically driven ROE do.

      There are probably, realistically, no more than a few thousands of a percent of women capable of holding a combat infantry position – not as well as ALL men, but as well as some men and I see no reason why they, if they wish to serve, should be kept from doing so.

      BTW, thank you. But when I was in service, you would have never been piloting anything in country, most you would have been doing is ferrying to and from. You flew in country because other women pushed through the barriers ahead of you. I was not an officer, but I was an instrument rated pilot and got the opportunity to fly just about everything in the AF inventory EXCEPT combat aircraft (not helicopters – those things are flying deathtraps! UH-1 should be used for treatment of kidney stones.)

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      the comraderie, the deep trust, the brotherhood of an all-male combat unit is an underated, essential part of the cohesion and function of the machine. ground combat teams are quite different from the air force. you want the best team on the ground, yes? the presence of a female, even if a she-rah, in a combat unit will not be beneficial to the unit. besides the physical limitations i point out in my comment below (and those are just a few), the presence of a female adds entirely new and detrimental issues. we are talking life or death–why would we want to mess with focus and morale–and maybe lives, just for fairness? it’s ludicrous.
      instead of us military/ex military folk pointing out what a bad idea this is, perhaps you could sell me on how a female will make an all-male combat team function better. can you? would removing a male and adding florence griffith joyner (flojo) to the u.s. men’s track team help or hinder their chances of winning?

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      p.s. how is it that you went through ranger school? females can’t go to ranger school.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      I didn’t say I did, I said Combat Air Traffic Controllers did, and as an Air Traffic Controller I knew them personally.

      Sorry. I have worked in the trades most of my life, the mere presence of a woman does not make men weaker… And from conversations I had, the fact that ANYONE is captured by the enemy is a unit disaster that everyone would risk everything to fix.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      p.p.s. being an air traffic controller at CATC and participating in a joint training operation with ranger units does not equal ranger training. sorry, tracy, but you are being disingenuous to put it mildly. please do not give people the impression you have been through ranger training/school. if a ranger read that, they would be furious.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      CATC is not a where, it is a what. Combat Air Traffic Controllers go through Ranger training. They are jumped into combat zones to provide on the ground direction of air assets.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      it’s your first sentence.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      ah. my apology. it’s your sentence structure–it looks like you are saying you had ranger training.
      i guess i just learned something new, as well–i didn’t know CATC had to go through ranger school.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      i know CATC as the Combined Army Training Center–not as “combat air traffic controller.”

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      still–will you accept my challenge and make a case for how a male removed and a female added to an infantry unit makes it BETTER? please, make the case.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      Sure, take Barack Obama out of the unit and replace him with Sarah Palin.

      In an Olympic 100m race with 8 semi-finalists, the last place guy finished 29/100s of a sec after first place. HUH? The difference between the biggest, strongest and smallest, weakest member of a combat infantry unit probably has a pretty significant range of abilities – they are not all so close in capabilities that there is no daylight between them. Will at least ONE woman fit into every unit between the strongest and weakest? no. But every unit is different and the mere presence of a woman is not morale destroying any more than a 5’8″ 180# guy in a unit full of 6’4″ 250# guys – IF he or she can do the job.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      lol! i totally agree with you on the barack/sarah swap!

  4. Kassie O'Brien says:

    thank you emily barton!!!
    as many are whining, this is NOT an equal rights issue. EVERYTHING is not an equal rights issue. it is NOT a fairness issue. my God, it is a common sense issue. it is insulting to compare the fitness and right of a black MAN to serve in the military (as some have done) to a woman who wants to be allowed in a combat MOS. as a woman, did i, emotionally, at times want to be with my brother soldiers of the infantry fighting by their side? of course! could i have made it through infantry training? yes, i believe i could. i made it through MP training and ABN training. and when it came game time, would i have performed on the field? sure. would i have been the best player to put on the field to work with the rest of the team? NO. a thousand times, no. a female does not make a male combat squad or platoon better–no matter how strong she is–no matter how capable. men need to be bloody warriors on the battlefield, not forced to be knights when their instinct kicks in to protect a female soldier, perhaps risking the rest of the team. like it or not, the job of a combat soldier is to kill people and break things.

    i know everybody thinks that women will have to meet the same physical fitness standards as men. when panetta says the physical ability requirements will be the same, i am not so sure that is true. i think he is playing a game here. you see, all soldiers, men and women, have to get a certain score to pass the p.t. test. the score to pass is the same, but the requirements to get that score are NOT the same. as emily stated, a perfect score is 300, (scoring 100 in each category–push ups, sit-ups, 2 mile run) but the number of push-ups a male has to do to score 100 is more than what a female has to do to score 100. a male has to run a much faster 2 miles to score 100 than a female does. if i recall, the sit-ups are closer to equal. so, if panetta is saying that both males and females have to pass the p.t. test to be in the infantry, well, that doesn’t mean squat because the requirements ARE different for a female to pass that test. i finished second in my company out of basic and m.p. school because the standards for me to score high on the p.t. test were lower than my male counterparts. in reality, my score was higher, but many of the men did way more push-ups than i did and ran a hell of a lot faster.

    the media oohs and ahs at today’s technology and give us the impression that war is now all joysticks, lazers, and aircraft, but it isn’t the case. ultimately, war are won on the ground (unless of course we just carpet bomb for a year or nuke ‘em). yes, there is less hand to hand these days, but there is much more guerilla type tactics/fighting which require the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility.

    i am an unbelievably competative woman. i was that and then some when i was a soldier. ask any of my brothers or any guy i served with. ask the boys i beat up when i was younger (ha)–but (i HATE to admit), i could not handle a 50 cal machine gun on the turret of a hummer as quickly, as accurately, or for as long of a period as a male could. a standard platoon requires 2 M60 machine guns, a 50 cal, tripods, and the ammo and extra barrels for each (they get hot and need to be changed), typically gunners are assigned and are responsible for lugging them. it is not uncommon for people within a platoon to take turns carrying these heavy weapons on a mission (which, again, requires extraordinary mobility). a female will not last as long carrying any of those weapons on a mission as a male will–especially in full battle gear, possibly a flack jacket (kevlar vest), and likely 70-80 lbs in a ruck. so, do we put extra fatigue on the males in the unit and ask them to only carry those weapons? does the unit move more slowly or take more breaks to compensate for the female? or does the unit pause longer than it should because the female has to pop a squat? a male soldier need only unzip/unbutton. a female soldier has to drop gear, drop weapon (!), drop drawers, take care of business in a highly vulnerable position, then put herself back together again.

    the bottom line goes back to my first partagraph. this is not a civil rights issue. this is a COMPLETELY different animal. what if the coach of the miami heat decided it was only fair if the 5 players on the floor were an african-american, a white gay guy, an hispanic, an asian, and a woman? miami would still win the championship, right?

    p.s. the issue seems to be settled though–it’s going to happen. my only suggestion now is that the women who SELFISHLY choose to screw with the morale, balance, effectiveness, and safety in combat MOSs be forced to shave their heads as the guys have to. rubberbands and bobby pins won’t hold in combat. hair is going to be flying and someone is going to get killed.

  5. Richard Guthrie says:

    Emily Barton is a True American Hero!!

  6. Tracy Coyle says:

    Sorry I don’t buy the ‘fairness’ issue. If someone is competent and wants to serve, why is this an issue? Because guys will be guys and women just screw up their mojo? You realize that the morale issue has been raised EVERY time any change comes to the military….

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      you are debating with feelings, not logic.
      have you ever been a ground troop in a war?
      have you witnessed the dynamics of males and females based in the middle of the dessert near the front line for months on end? a whole lot of foolishness goes on that hinders the mission of even front line support units.
      we are laying out for you basic facts based on real experience and you are arguing with the emotion of “fairness” and “equal rights.” this isn’t a civilian factory or business office. this is an entirely different animal. many facts have been laid at your feet, but you would rather buy into the premise of “fairness.”

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      well, i guess we just disagree. it’s going to happen now, so what is to be done (i ask myself)? i think time will show this to be a slow growing disaster. we do agree on some points (if it is to happen)–like the physical standards should absolutely be the same–NOT adjusted, as they are now. a female should have to pull EQUAL weight. if not, she’s out of there. a unit cannot be put at risk. oh, and shave their heads.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      We didn’t have our heads shaved in Basic, but almost all of us got it cut REAL short so that it was out of the way. Almost everyone I served with kept it short throughout our service.

      I served 1977-1981 and you can’t imagine the grief I got from friends for enlisting. I felt it was a moral obligation to do so. My parents are LEGAL immigrants – my father obtained citizenship because he served in the Army. My brother served and retired from the AF, (he served in Desert Storm – F16 weapons mech), his son is the nephew I spoke of. Chris and I talk all the time. When he returned after the first tour in Iraq, he came to see me to talk about it. (He had just left the mess tent in Mosul when it exploded, he served under fire for months in Sadr City – he wanted to talk….) He asked my opinion about re-upping last year. His sister (my niece) is married to an AF Sargent, they are in Japan.

      I am not without knowledge or understanding. “socializing” combat units is a huge mistake, but out of hand dismissing women is not appropriate either. I am a conservative (classical liberal), with individual liberty comes individual responsibility. I was the only woman GCA ATC on the base (three women were Tower ATC).

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      tracy–i got my haircut short, as well. :(
      you and i have more in common than not (hell, we both follow kira!). i love how many people in your family have/are serving. i come from more of a marine family, so when i went army, you can imagine the groans! sorry if any of my comments got overly combative (ha-combative). i obviously feel strongly about this issue. have a great evening!

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      Well, it just proves you weren’t a jarhead. ;)

      This is an all volunteer military. I’d be more opposed if were mandatory service. The ones in it for ‘glory or tuition’ get tagged (If not washed out) early. Those that WANT to serve should be given every opportunity

      Carry on!

  7. Great post Emily & great conversation thus far. It’s always awesome to hear various perspectives on an issue. I have heard the perspective of a female soldier who is happy about women serving on the front lines, so I’ll have to share this with her.

  8. Tracy Coyle says:

    No Kassie. I have never been a ground troop in a war. Probably neither have you. I have never witnessed the dynamics of men and women is a desert for months on end. Have you? Yea, lots of stupidity is dumped on troops from politicians and Pentagon brass. And?

    I am giving you my OPINION based on my military service experience, the knowledge of combat level training – 2nd hand, which is all you have, and to enter information previously not discussed, conversations with my nephew who has served two tours in Iraq, was one of the first Stryker drivers in country, spent months under fire in Sadr City and while we never talked about women in combat roles, I can feel comfortable understanding certain aspects and being able to integrate them into my experience and knowledge.

    Here are your facts: women will adversely affect unit moral. You know this fact because …wait, there are no women in combat units so we don’t have evidence, only assumptions; women can’t survive combat unit training because, well, we don’t have evidence, only assumptions; women can’t handle combat conditions because …well, we don’t have evidence but we assume none can.

    Men and women ARE different, in matters large and small. But to assume EVERY woman is physically and emotionally incapable compared to every man is not fact.

    • Emily Barton says:

      Tracy, the Marine Corps put two very competent women through the Infantry Officers Course as a test platform and neither completed it. I strongly encourage you to read Capt Petronio’s article as she was in combat on the ground as a Combat Engineer and in the Lioness program. I purposely didn’t write about “morale”. I also was limited on words so I didn’t include some medical information about how women carrying stress bear loads and how they are 3 times as likely to get stress fractures in the hips.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      I have read the article and they are good, valid and important points. Operational tempo is a concern for me. We, physically and genetically, ‘suffer’ from a serious injury every month and while the rigors of that situation will impact our cycles, the fact is that our systems need time to deal that long term combat cycles simply does not allow for. The damage to the physical and emotional abilities of both men and women to extended periods of combat should be addressed higher and IS being ignored by those that only SEE differences as evidence of discrimination. I think you, the Captain and Kassie all agree that there are situations that very few women (actual numbers, not a percentage) can or should be in. We each may have at one time the ability to trounce 80% of the men out there, but our ‘breaking point’ is sooner (and emotional capacity is not the issue).

      MY position is that women should not be kept out of trying ‘out of hand’. I don’t think women should be ‘forced’ into it either by outside forces. My problem is probably the same as everyone else – the outside forces will see the lack of women in combat as a failure of the military to integrate instead of an inability of women to meet the training standards. The result will be forcing a lowering of standards or ‘affirmative action’ combat units. Both terrible outcomes.

      I’d rather women be allowed to try and fail than not be allowed at all. Failure is not an indication a system is broken..but the namby-pambys never see it that way.

  9. Kassie O'Brien says:

    p.s. i have been a ground troop in a war. i was based out of fort bragg for 3 1/2 years on the hq of the 264th Corps Support Battalion (18th ABN Corps). my battalion directly supported the the 82nd during desert storm. i was one of about 12 females on a logistical operations base in the middle of the desert on the saudi/iraqui border. so, the answer to your questions is, yes.

  10. Bart Kemper says:

    I have been in since 1983. Some women can be combat arms. Not all women can do it. Part of the recent problem is body armor–all of it is made for men. Just as female cops had problems at first on patrol, when they came up with body armor and belts that fit the female frame, and adjusted for more variables, then the muscle/skeletal problems occured about at the same rate as males. So those problems can be fixed.

    Again — not ever woman wants to be combat arms, and just because they can do it, doesn’t mean they want to do it. I have served with too many women that deserve the chance.

    Part of the dynamic, unconcious or not, is right now there is a bar set artificially low. I have watched that bar moved since I was a kid (Army brat, both parents served). Now that all the restrictions are gone, a woman who isn’t combat arms is the same as a male who isn’t combat arms. There is no more “well, shoulda woulda coulda”…nope, this is what you are. And those that excel in combat arms will lord it over the others, just as the airborne infantry lords it over legs.

    As of now, men and women will have the same standards in combat arms. The job requirements will dicate that does nto change. Women will wash out, just as males do. There will be wailing and complaints of “not fair” for xxx and yyy reasons, just as males do now. It will work out.

    Again…been in since ’83. Enlisted, NCO, Officer. I’m preparing to go over again. I’m good with this change. I have very little sympathy for the women who are saying “this is a bad thing” because NO ONE is asking you to change MOS’s. If its not for you, don’t do it. Volunteers only. Yes, you will be judged, JUST LIKE A MALE, on whether or not you are combat arms, JUST LIKE A MALE. If you can’t hang, don’t. If you want slack, we’ll cut the rope. I want the people with me who can make the mission happen. If you can, get after it. If you can’t, then get out of the way. Some of my best shooters were females. Some of my best gunners were female. I’ve seen women work men into the GROUND loading and unloading trucks and tracks and other women (and men) coming up short. All I wanted was the troops to cherish life when possible, make red mist when needed, and make the mission happen. That won’t change.

    Again, if you don’t want to join combat arms, then please, really…don’t. But don’t set the stage for holding others back that CAN do the job, mentally, physically, and spiritually. The fact that there may be only a few who can do it is no reason to hold them back just because you don’t want that job. Those females, who will hold the line and make the standard, could mean that HIGHLY capable women are going in to do searches, that due to adrenline cycle difference they will be the calm, cool gunners or radio operators while the men go from 0-100mph in .5 seconds (then come down as fast). Do not deprive me of soldiers who can help me do my mission just because YOU don’t want that dirty, nasty, smelly, hard job.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      Damn fine. Thank you for your service. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      bart–great comment.
      the truth is (as i said waaaay up there), i would have loved to have fought side by side with my infantry brothers, but there is way more to it than physical ability (of which very few females can or will last in infantry life). i was a competative and physically capable female, but just because i desired to be in a combat unit, doesn’t mean i should have been. this isn’t about giving an individual a chance. it’s the team that matters here–and there is more to it than everyone being strong. i have seen more destructive love traingle antics than i care to remember when i was stationed in the desert. the trouble that caused for those involved and not involved was destructive to the unit’s morale. article 15s, broken families, resentments within squads. why add that? there are so many angles…

  11. Kassie O'Brien says:

    also, i went through military police school and airborne school. i have a little experience.

  12. Bart Kemper says:

    Oh…and all that camraderie and stuff about “all men”? Speaking as a MALE who has been in ALL MALE units, etc. I have found the camraderie to be just as intense with a cohesive integrated unit as a cohesive male unit. I have found disorganized grabassious whiny blame-ridden units to have suck ass camraderie, whether an airborne platoon at Bragg or a integrated supply unit. So that’s a nonstarter.

    The bar has been raised. If you can’t be combat arms, or don’t want to be combat arms, then don’t. And then do the job you do have the best you can, and thank you for doing it because its probably a job I do NOT want to do. I am a combat engineer. I love my work. If you are an asset and part of the team, I dont’ care about your plumbing or your personal sexual life. I’ve had to fire male medics and replace them with female medics because the female was hardcore and the male was a whiner and didn’t want to do the job. Its that simple.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      were you at fort leonardwood ever? i did my last 1/2 year there with the 5th–i was in the 515th, a pipline unit.

  13. Bart Kemper says:

    Kassie… ok, you’ve been through airborne and MP school. I went through Airborne in ’86 (with females), Air Assault in ’91 (with females), Engineer Officer Basic in ’93 (with females), commanded an engineer combat support equipment company (co-ed) then a mech combat engineer company (all male). Served on jump status in Bragg (82nd) as an NCO, been in Korea, Iraq, Europe, and spinning up for Afghanstan … been out of it because of injuries because males ALSO get hurt over time. I’ve seen the changes over time as more and more restrictions were lifted. I don’t know everything. I know everyone has their own experiences. The bottom line is — the change has happened. The time to complain about it was five minutes ago. There, we’re done. Now the question is — how to best move forward and make mission happen.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      bart–i only gave my experience because tracy was questioning if i had any.

    • Kassie O'Brien says:

      yes. we have to move forward. same physical requirements (not scores) and shaved female heads. rubberbands and bobby pins won’t hold in the infantry. they barely hold in training.

  14. Krista Kemper says:

    As per the name, I’m Bart’s wife. I’m also a conbat vet, having done 2 tours in Somalia. My first tour was in Bali Dogle, where conditions were extremely primitive. Having lived that way, no running water, having to do latrine burns, constantly short on supplies, and with every single scrap of muscle needed to live from day to day, I can pretty well say that women are capable of living like that. I was frequently tasked as convoy security on our runs to Mogadishu because I was respected as a soldier within the unit I was assigned to (air cav) because I did my work, kept my cool, and was one of the best shots in the brigade. I suppose you could argue that I was a “she-ra” as I come from good Eastern Bloc peasant stock. What I saw was that unit cohesion and comaradarie had nothing to do with the mix of people but rather the ability of leadership to give the troops those things. Myself and the other females were rolled into the Cav unit with little ceremony and life went on as before. The places I saw the most problems tended to be in the headquarters elements among the well rested desk jockies. Those who were working for a living didn’t have time for the games.

    At no point in either tour did I ever have to deal with the men trying to be white knights. Somalia saw the very beginnings of the FET (Female Encounter Team) program. It was quickly recognised as a necessity and while there were several civilian female interpreters, they were not trained to handle and search female detainees. I was expected to shoulder my own load, do my job, and not complain louder than the ambient level. There was some difficulty at the beginning with a couple of the lower enlisted. They complained loudest and treated me with the least respect. Once their problems were addressed -rather abruptly, with a bloody nose for one of them- I had no problems working with them EXCEPT for my rather glaring lack of infantry training. This same lack could also be noted with non-infantry males who were expected to occassionally accompany the infantry into the city. Once they got over the differance in plumbing I became a uniform with a set of skills necessary for completing the mission. My other job was as a PSD driver. I was chosen because 1) I was familiar with the city 2) had good land nav skills and 3) because I was female with the advantage of that slow to peak adrenaline cycle. We came under fire on several occassions and watching the men around me spin up was amazing. Part of my job was to operate the radio because while the men were spun up they would yell into the mic. I was still on the ball, still “moving with a purpose” but it was more measured. Talking with the men on the team later, they found it equally amazing that I didn’t seem to be nearly as spun up as they *thought* I should have been. I did get there eventually but well after the incident and usually by the time we got to someplace relatively safe. But, through it all, they trusted that I would perform and not need to be rescued. This response is not at all unusual and has been studied on police departments for over 3 decades now. Female police officers have been found to de-escalate situations more frequently than their male coubterparts and have fewer force complaints because they take longer to get to peak adrenaline. Also, men on police departments don’t do the white knight routine. When women initially went into patrol it happened. It was stopped with a combonation of training and simple observation of the competance of the female officers. This same thing has *been* happening since women were first officially brought into the armed services. Men in support units like MPs don’t do it when firefights happen so why would one expect it to happen within line units? I would hope that their training would be good enough to override that instinct as well as it does all the other ones it’s designed to.

  15. Emily Barton says:

    I do not doubt in any way women can handle combat. As I stated women have been in America’s combat environment since the start of our country and all the examples stated above. I know men are capable of working alongside women. In fact, I do not think this is an issue for today’s young Marines and soldiers as they grew up with women in leadership roles and professional positions and even professional sports, unlike the generations before us. My primary concern is the weight females would be required to carry in combat. In 1000 words I was unable to bring up medical research I found, such as women are 3 times as likely to have stress fractures in their hips, the difference in bone density between women and men (especially women who have been on birth control or nursed a child), and our physical stature. All things we cannot “train” for. If an exoskeleton is purchased and used by the military (already developed), I would say that females would be good to go (Oh rah, Starship Troopers). I would say there has to be studies on the long term health of women who sustain combat loads for long periods of time which is timely and expensive, especially for a few qualified applicants. Something I do not want my tax dollars paying for. Initial training is only weeks. A combat deployment for Marines is 7 months and longer for Army, not counting the training prior. I would not offer myself or my daughters for these long term studies because I myself am suffering from injuries during my military training (bone graft to my ankle and a sciatic hernia repair) and I would not wish that on my children. Competence is not the issue here. If you have not read Petronio’s article, I encourage you to.

  16. anonymous says:

    It’s so nice of Emily to find so many excuses why women can’t serve in combat positions while leaving out all the reasons why they should. Maybe all of you should get off the computer, go put on an apron and finish cooking dinner. While were at it lets make it an all white military and get rid of gays and lesbians. This type of neanderthal thinking is what keeps us from getting over race, gender, and sexual preference barriers. Should we open 230,000 jobs for a handful of women? Are you kidding, yes we should. Lets see didn’t we change policy so a handful of gay and lesbian people could serve openly in the military. Im pretty sure there is more females in the military than gays and lesbians. We didn’t do long term study to allow minorities to join the service. Why isn’t anyone thinking of equal opportunity? If an individual is the best qualified for a task, then that individual should be given the opportunity to accomplish that task.

    I serve in the military and can tell you that in my branch of service the average male in the infantry weighs less than 180lbs. Even at 180lbs males carry more than the recommended load so why would it be ok for males to do this but females are not. Am I saying that all females should be allowed to join an infantry MOS, no only the ones who qualify. Emily answer this question when was the last time you saw an infatry unit on patrol with a full main pack weapon and protective gear? They don’t. They carry assault packs protective gear weapon and ammo. That is no more gear than a female Marine would be required to carry walking back and from the hanger to the line while deployed. If they don’t do so their leadership has failied. Yes at first there will issues, but there is issues anytime something new is introduced. Training will get smarter, gear will get lighter, and women will get stronger.

    Emily it is extremely offensive that you would reinforce stereotypes. So yes lets face it we are not all created the equal, not all women are weak and incapable like you and Petronio. Not all women will degradate morale as you did or think they will. I personally would think its quite motivating that as a society we have come so far that we all are all willing to share cost of freedom. If we faced an enemy so strong that it drastically dimished our male infantry population would you recommend that we just bow down and let them take us over. Or should we just wait till that happens and hope that our women will come running out of the kitchens and save our children. It won’t be to long from now that other countries will be willing to match the power of our military. Allowing everyone to equal apportunity to serve will give new creative insight that will help keep us ahead of our enemies.


    • Emily Barton says:

      I am a stay-at-home mother and I am equally as proud of that as I am my service in the military. I am happy to be in the kitchen during this phase of life. One of the luxuries in the time that we live, I got to serve in the military and I get to choose to stay at home with my children (without judgement).

      I hope gear gets lighter over time. There is an excellent Army about the weight in gear in general (not gender specific) and why we need to reduce it. If the gear load got lighter, that would be something to look at. How do you propose training gets smarter?

      As I have been out of the military since 2010, I have not seen a fully combat loaded Marine since then. While I was in OIF, I carried them all the time in my helicopter and did the weight and balance so I know full well, how much a combat loaded Marine weighs. At times, we had them step on a scale. I conducted raids so I saw how much Marines and Navy Seals carry, never had the joy of carrying an Army infantry member.

      I hope the studies show that women can handle the stress of the combat load. I would love to be wrong on this. And you and I both know that no one is each other’s equal. We each have our strength’s and weaknesses. “Make your weakness and turn it into a strength.”

      My opinion is my opinion and I can only know by what I experienced. I commend your defense of women in the military anonymously. Semper Fi.

    • Tracy Coyle says:

      Anon, every once in a while I wish people on my side of the argument would not be. Emily was not ‘reinforcing stereotypes’ but discussing DIFFERENCES. I know the pejorative is jarhead, but more often it is full of concrete. There are aspects of serving in combat situations that men and women deal with differently – there are psychological and physical differences and not recognizing them is just working with blinders on. In 40 years I have met maybe 3 women that I would welcome in a firefight and I have met a whole bunch of men that I WOULD shoot rather than risk covering my back. MY problem is not that some women can’t handle the stresses, is that some that could won’t be allowed to try. Unfortunately, like political ROE, women involvement in combat positions is more likely to be demanded on political grounds than on competency grounds and that is dangerous, even fatal, for the troops on the ground.

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