An Unintended Consequence of Females in the Infantry?

| February 23, 2013

There is a great deal of discussion going on right now concerning whether or not women should serve in designated ground combat roles. Should women be infantry soldiers or not? Articles such as that posted at American Thinker by Elise Cooper present numerous pros and cons, but, as with most such writings, the comments by readers are almost uniformly negative. Most of those responding cite various problems that will arise if the Obama administration insists on pushing through this politically correct social experiment. And most of those problems they cite are quite likely to occur in the opinion of this old combat infantryman.

However, there is another problem that I foresee: senior female officers have pushed this issue of women serving in combat because they see the lack combat duty and combat command in their military résumés as an impediment to further promotion. They may be correct. But just because that is true in their situation, it does not mean that it will be so for female junior officers or enlisted personnel serving in infantry units. The reality may just be the opposite.

The lowest leadership position in an infantry platoon is that of fireteam leader — usually a junior NCO, corporal, or sergeant (and, too frequently in the real world, a specialist fourth class). The fireteam usually consists of the leader and three or four lower-ranking soldiers. To get that first leadership promotion to fireteam leader, a soldier must demonstrate performance that his superiors believe sets him apart from and above those other members of the various fireteams in an infantry platoon and company. While many criteria go into promotion decisions, such as intelligence and can-do attitude, leadership ability is the most sought-after quality.

And that holds true all the way up the promotional chart. For once a soldier has been singled out by his superiors as worthy of being a fireteam leader, from his very first day on the job, his performance is being observed to see how well he leads his team and how well he stacks up against the other two or three fireteam leaders in his squad, as well the three or four fireteam leaders in each of the other two to four squads in his platoon. That competition for promotion never ends, and the importance of the ability to lead only increases with each step up.

And therein lies the rub for young women aspiring to serve in direct infantry roles. Even the most ardent liberal proponents of women in combat will generally concede that it will be a rare female soldier who possesses the same physical strength as her male counterparts. The most important quality for promotion down at the ground level where the infantry operates (it is called ground combat, after all) is leadership, and that leadership means out-front physically leading, setting the example for soldiers operating at the very limits of their physical endurance. How is a physically weaker female soldier going to meet that leadership requirement?

As any infantryman can tell you, superior physical strength generally equals greater endurance. So if a female soldier lacks the strength and endurance to set the example for other soldiers, how is she to get promoted? Having spent six years in the infantry, serving from private to staff sergeant, I can tell you that being able to set the physical pace and set the proper example is essential 24/7 in leading soldiers. They have zero tolerance for weakness, physical or otherwise, in their superiors, and they are quick to exploit it. It then becomes a short path to disciplinary problems — and poor discipline is, in and of itself, the shortest road to poor unit cohesiveness and combat performance.

If, as we can anticipate, the Pentagon insists on socially promoting females in infantry units on a gender -quota basis, regardless of their ability to lead from the front, then we at some point in the future will have ground forces that have a sizeable portion of their leadership positions filled by people who were promoted without possessing the full ability to lead their subordinates. That will systematically redefine and degrade the role of unit leadership. In a future ground war, then, this nation will be at a disadvantage when engaging forces where the principle of strong, physical leadership has been maintained.

I mentioned senior female officers complaining of a lack of combat experience. Since we do now have female field grade officers commanding battalions and higher in combat zones, they had to arrive at their commands via promotion through support units, where female ability to compete with male soldiers is not dependent upon physical strength. However, under these new rules, many of them would begin their careers as second lieutenant/platoon leaders in an infantry company, where they must compete against the other, mostly male, lieutenant/platoon leaders in their company as well as all the lieutenants in the several other companies constituting their battalion. Since many junior (male) infantry officers are recruited from college athletics programs, this promotion-physical leadership discrepancy could become even more pronounced for female officers. Rather than facilitating female promotion in the senior ranks, this move could result in female officers being weeded out early in their careers because they simply lack the ability to physically lead.

This truly is a policy that needs to be thought through to all its unintended consequences by those politically correct liberal hip-shooters running our government prior to its implementation.

Crossposted at American Thinker

Category: Military issues

Comments (34)

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  1. Dave says:

    Enlisted females in the Marine Corps have no problems getting promoted at the same rate if not faster than male Marines in the same MOS, I’ll just leave it at that.

  2. Nom Deguerre says:

    I dunno.. I was a combat Medic, mostly with combat arms units. Now, of all things, I’m a registered nurse in an urban trauma center. I gotta tell ya, the broads I work with now are tough as nails and if I needed to depend on them in combat, I think I would… of course I’m pushing the notion WAY out there metaphorically …incoming rounds do change a situation I find.

  3. MCPO NYC USN (Ret.) says:

    I don’t have much to say about this issue, as you Army guys have covered much of the keys issues.

    Personally, as I stated before … if they can do the job and perform at the same levels as their male counterparts … in training and combat … good to go. Oh and they have to be smokin’ hot too! That is always good for morale!

  4. fm2176 says:

    Female NCOs in the Army have, if anything, a greater chance of getting promoted than those of us in combat arms. With the exception of SMA (which to my knowledge has always been a combat arms Soldier), there is nothing holding females back from progressing in the NCO Corps. Women such as CSM Teresa King (the suspended, “cleared”, and promptly reassigned Drill Sergeant School Commandant) have proven that even a lack of operational experience isn’t a disqualifier for females (and males, for that matter) to get a nominative CSM position. I’ve met many who outrank me with less time in service than I have as an 11B. The Infantry can be a fast-tracker MOS up to SSG or even SFC, but I notice more and more senior NCOs in support MOS’ that have less overall experience than their 11B counterparts, especially at the Senior Sergeant (E-8 and E-9) levels.

    Officers have a vastly different career progression. Maybe serving in positions that are for the time-being male-only will help some see stars, maybe not. I highly doubt female NCOs will benefit much from serving in the Infantry, though. Or maybe they will, when this experiment is started, Big Army will want to see so many female 11Bs in certain positions. I wouldn’t be surprised if I get a female 1SG with zero line experience in a couple of years.

  5. 2BlueStars says:

    My son was made a weapons squad leader and rifle team leader as a 20 yr. old PFC while in Afghanistan due to attrition. Life on a COP is not predictable and very primitive. I don’t know of anyone who signs up for the Infantry for promotion points.

  6. Just an Old Dog says:

    @2 You are pushing the limits. Even if you find a female who is mentally tough enough to deal with and treat traumatic combat injuries that doesn’t men she can hump a ruck or drag a 200 pound soldier under fire.

  7. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Well, this can be debated all day, every day, until hell freezes over. Will it be put to a referendum? Sure, just like Kerry’s appointment and Hagel’s appointment, and a hundred other matters that come our way by fiat. If I sound sore, I am. We–like our blessed Constitution–are getting pushed, pulled, and shoved every which way by Team Obama. Now the SOB is urging the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s another of those things called LAW that he takes upon himself to enforce or not. He is setting about detroying our institutions (including the military, of necessity) and we are left to talk about it–after the fact. It is frustrating and maddening.

  8. SwizzWunSix says:

    Its obvious that they haven’t thought this out at the micro level for women in the infantry. Once they start seeing the slower promotion rates I’m sure theres going to be a female points system that is strangely lower than the male to help “equalize the force.”

  9. docstew says:

    @8: When I first enlisted as a medic, they were still two separate training paths: 91B (combat medic) and 91C (LPN). The Army had decided at that time that it was necessary, in order for 91C’s to be promoted, to combine the two MOS’s into 91W, and leave LPN as an ASI. Now, less than 10 years after the MOS merged, the Army has decided to separate them out again, realizing that they have different skill sets that don’t necessarily translate real well (i.e. your nurse who’s good at administering meds in a hospital setting might not be good at stopping bleeding at the point of injury), as well as promotion prospects for the now 68WM6 being impacted because of a lack of M6 slots at the upper levels. With that knowledge, I would bet that the female infantry would be separated back out to support units within the next decade “so they can have a fair chance to be promoted and progress their careers”.

  10. SJ says:

    A solution? Ms Fluke (the grad student) says transgender’s need to be in the military.

    Does Tricare cover an addadicktome (h/t Rush)?

  11. jonace says:

    Somebody on this site wrote” play stupid games, win stupid prizes”. That’s all women in the infantry will get us, stupid prizes. It was a bad idea 10 years, it’s a bad idea now and it will always be a bad idea.

  12. Jumpmaster says:

    This PC BS is going to get people killed and also lead to lawsuits when a female soldier fails to do the job and gets reassigned. REMFs are on a campaign to weaken our military and they are succeeding.

  13. jonace says:

    Women in the infantry was a bad idea 10 years ago, it’s a bad idea now and it will always be a bad idea.

  14. NHSparky says:

    SJ–Sandra Fluke is prima facie evidence of what happens when you hand the keys to the asylum to the lunatics.

    Maybe if she spent a few days in uniform she’d realize Klinger was a FICTIONAL character.

  15. FatCircles0311 says:

    It’s going to be hilarious when the company 1st sgt is always riding in the safety vehicle because she falls out during humps.

    Good luck aging at twice the rate while in the infantry, females. Those crusty old SNCO’s you see are only in their late 20’s early 30’s.

  16. 11BScottie says:

    LOL at 0311, ah yes I remember as a wee private looking at those who have been in a while, expicially those with deployments and remember thinking how much older/leathery their skin looked. Hell our platoon daddy was 34 and looked 50. Then I see these privates today how young they look and just chuckle. I remember reading somthing about how a typical deployment takes 5 years off your life as a grunt, and it wouldn’t surpise me in the least.

  17. DaveO says:

    Really? Females wanting higher commands, even up to Service Chief/CJCS?

    Gee. Whoda thunkit?

  18. Poetrooper says:

    Fat Circles. You reminded me of the time an old buddy from the 101st came to visit us in Pensacola in the late 70’s. I’d gotten out after six years to get my degree on the GI Bill. He’d stayed in the intervening ten years and was now an E-8 first sergeant.

    When we met him at the airport, I was stunned by how lined and weather-beaten his face was at the age of 35, a year younger than me. He looked to be in his fifties. At the house, while he was unpacking in the guest bedroom, my wife’s first words when we were alone was, “He’s younger than you are? You’ve got to be kidding. He looks more like your father.”

    I responded that had I stayed in I would probably look just as old as he did and reminded her that I’d always told her life in the Airborne infantry was hard. Life in any of the combat arms is no picnic but in light infantry and spec ops it is particularly hard if one spends his whole career out in the woods.

    Maybe Jonn could serve as an effective deterrent to women wanting to be in the infantry by putting up a pic of himself at 18 and another one at 40 and cross-post it on all the feminist websites over a caption that says, “See? See what happens to you in the infantry?” Should be effective.


    Of course he’ll probably claim that a pic of him at 18 would be a recruiting tool for riflebabes.

  19. tops116 says:

    “This truly is a policy that needs to be thought through to all its unintended consequences by those politically correct liberal hip-shooters running our government prior to its implementation.”

    After the stimulus and Obamacare, why start now?

  20. NHSparky says:

    I look at every single Chief off both my boats. I can’t think of a single one that didn’t look at least 50, and some were as young as their early 30’s.

    I can imagine how 20 years of Infantry would do much the same.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Guess they can unilaterally assign a female LT to an infantry platoon but they will never be able to dictate that a bunch of 20 studs respect said LT when she can’t do a pull up, or keep up with them on a run, or have to pack her gear on a 24 hour foot movement. These clowns do not understand the culture of combat arms. These officers who are allowing the administration to force this upon the military should comit seppuku. In infantryland one’s physical prowess fucking matters. But hey force me to share a fighting position with someone who can max their pushup event with the # of reps that if I performed I would fail the test. Think some female’s ranger tab won’t be laughed at and ridiculed when she doesn’t pass the course at the male 17-21 age group standards like everyone else? You are living in a dream world. Get ready for IG reports and congressionals everyone, because when no one listens to or respects these women; the narrative won’t be that its because they can’t perform and were only assigned to a unit to fill some quota. The sad sacks will scream and cry and sue claiming that it is because the men are meanies and don’t want to give up their ‘boys club’. My love of the military (combat arms especially) comes mostly from the fact that it is still a place where performance and results matter, and everyone isn’t given a participation trophy for simply showing up. Kiss that all goodbye everyone, it’s a very sad. 

    Rant out. smoke-check

  22. NSOM says:

    Females will fail out of, and decline to apply for, schools and high speed, physically intense training courses at a disproportional rate to men. This looks bad and makes the politicians in and out of uniform uncomfortable. In turn they’ll lower the standards and get rid of some portions of training to help bring the numbers closer to what appears to be parity. That’s the legacy of females in combat fields, lower standards and inferior training.

  23. Rerun0369 says:

    The problem is the rise of the smart bomb and videogames. Ever since Desert Storm, with all the footage of LGB/GBU strikes, and the popularity of shooters like Call of Duty, the general populace has begun believing that combat is a high-tech game of standoff weapons and push-button warfare. The fact that physical ability and good old infantry ruggedness are still required to fight and win todays wars is completely lost on John Q. public. The image of the grunt riding around in HMMWV’s in Iraq is the image seared in most peoples minds, the war in Afghanistan is much lower on the publics conscience as we begin to wind down. The rugged terrain and lack of improved surfaces renders vehicles highly vulnerable and borderline useless, information that is rarely conveyed outside military circles.

    In fact, as technology advances, the average infantryman’s combat load has increased. Furthermore, at the platoon level, the higher your billet, the more you carry, many times the platoon commander and platoon sergeant are carrying up to 35-50 lbs more than their riflemen. Despite all the talk of making gear smaller and lighter, that just translates into your average grunt carrying more, as commanders feel that lighter gear means more gear to be carried. The reality that Armies no longer forage from the local countryside, and instead carry everything on their back is often overlooked, and lets not overlook all the required protective gear. “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”

    I know I am preaching to the choir here, but I feel it needs to be said anyways.
    For what the average person thinks modern combat is, check out the best rated answer on this yahoo answers page.

    “It doesn’t make the armies weaker, it makes them stronger and makes some women who can and wish to do a military service happy. A women can shoot a rifle or tank or fly a plane as good as any men,physical strength doesn’t matter today we do not fight with swords, cant give you 1 reason what they shouldn’t do anything.”

  24. Anonymous says:

    Makes them happy! That’s what truly matters here. Operational effectiveness be damned, armies of the world are only in existence to help it’s members feel fufilled and actualize their every goal.

    *** throws up hands, walks out of room ***

  25. Mud says:

    Well argued piece. Law of unintended consequences in full effect.

  26. OWB says:

    The consequences are unintended?

  27. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    @26. I’m with you. The administration knows what it is doing. It targets institutions, rarely individuals. There is good reason for that. Institutions sustain a society. So, if it’s fundamental change to a society one seeks, the society’s institutions must be weakened and, ultimately, destroyed. As I said in cmt 7, we are left to merely talk about these these things after the fact–after the destructive changes have been effected.

  28. A Proud Infidel says:

    @27, 2/17, Effected, NO, more like INFLICTED or infected with!!

  29. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Americans seem to have a very difficult time believing that its elected leaders might actually not have the best interest of the nation at heart. For many of the leaders, their allegiance is to a vision of the country and the world that most of us don’t share or understand. We continually wonder why they do what they do because the consequences of what they are doing seems to be antithetical to common sense and to our traditional values of God, family, and country. And it is. As they effect (or inflict) change, we ask,”How can we reverse this?” I fear that we cannot. Obamacare is a perfect example of this.

    On paper, THEY work for US. Yet, more and more we are powerless against them. I do not know what it will take to put us back on the path we once walked–or whether it is even possible. Coups are so very much easier to deal with. This mess is the result of Americans, largely ignorant, self-interested Americans, choosing these ‘visionaries’ who will lead us to ruin.

  30. CBSenior says:

    We are also missing a huge point here. Senior Female Officers are looking for combat to get promoted. I remember that any asshole that wanted to get you killed for theirs glory was not fit to lead and no one wanted to follow them. Pretty disturbing that this attitude is glanced over and ignored. If Senior Female Officers want combat, get in the pit and duke it out with the First Sargent. Win and stay, lose and pack your bags.

  31. bartdp says:

    To be honest I don’t see them lining up….to go 11B, 19D or any other combat mos… I see it as an assualt on the military by the far flung left using what ever methode works. Like Ms Sandra Fluke… thing she wants is transgendered in the military. Everyone is so afraid of standing up for what they believe. The left owns the argument! Just shut up and let them do what they want. They purge our commanders when they oppose their radical changes. They have low information voters, we have low backbone opposition. Its to the point that when we object, we first have to come out with a disclaimer before we even object out of fear of being called some right wing kook….again…..they OWN THE ARGUMENT, we just weakly object. Women have always had the same opportunities men have in the military in their chosen branch they accel through merit. There has never been competition for advancement between branches….each branch has its specific function in this well oiled machine. The left won’t be happy until the military is as non-functional as the Post Office is.

  32. Kirk says:

    @ PoeTrooper…

    I was a Combat Engineer, but the same thing applies. Once upon a time, when I was but a lowly Sergeant, my platoon sergeant was a SFC who looked to be, at a minimum, in his mid-sixties. No lie–We all thought he joined late in life.

    SFC “A”, who shall remain nameless past his initial, was a man who burned his candle at both ends, the middle, and several locations in between. We marveled at his energy, which had him staying out late at night with us younger guys, going to strip clubs, the NCO club, and drinking into the wee hours of the morning. It was nothing to see him at 0300, still at the club, before he’d show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to run the rest of us into the ground for PT at 0530. Man smoked like a chimney, too…

    One day, we were all sitting around the off-post locker room, speculating about his age. Nobody in the platoon guessed at anything younger than age 50, and those who did were considered wildly optimistic. Smarter Soldiers would have gone to the company Operations Sergeant, paid a small bribe, and found out for sure, but we didn’t. Hearing our speculations, SFC “A” came out of his office, and offered a us a bet: We’d put up the money to make it worth his while, and he’d tell us his age. If any of us came within five years, the closest person would get the pot. If nobody was within five years, SFC “A” would get it…

    By the end of the afternoon, optimism had taken the kitty up to around $500.00. Half the company was in on it, certain someone would get it. Everyone picked an age well north of 50. That’s how sure we all were, and I’m including people who were quite senior themselves–Other platoon sergeants were sure he had to be a generation or two older than themselves.

    SFC “A” pulled out his ID card, and we all collectively shit bricks: He was, honest to God, 37 years old. We made him produce a birth certificate, that’s how hard it was to believe. He may have been lying, but he had the paper to back the lies up, and that’s what he’d enlisted under. Age 37, and we all thought he was in his mid-sixties.

    Quite a few of us reevaluated our social lives, after that afternoon, and there weren’t quite so many people following him out to the clubs, of a weekday evening.

  33. spavrum says:

    I think that attempting to get “Combat Action” for promotion purposes is a very naive area of thinking. As a woman, I served in Iraq and I did see combat, and I WOULD BE OFFENDED to serve under an officer who is only assigned to my unit for promotional purposes. It makes you wonder where their mindset truly is, are they making you go out on patrol because you need to or because they think the greater number of patrols that are successful will propel them in the ranks. I cannot obviously speak from a male perspective, but I always preferred to hang with the 11B’s and 19D’s as I was attached to a CAV unit. I really see no need for females to be in a combat arms MOS and I see nothing wrong with just attaching a female to a combat unit. I cannot perform to the standard that most males uphold in these positions, granted I could do the minimum requirements for a male PT test, but the minimum is not enough. It is a fact that woman cannot perform to the level a man can physically in certain areas and vice versa. I just find it appalling that years of tradition are being thrown out the window because there are some people throwing tantrums because they are not getting combat experience. I can tell you one thing, I never asked for the combat experience I saw and I guarantee that most females that ask for it, are not ready to handle to it.