The report that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, has now stated that if a military service reports that a physical standard of performance prohibits women from participating in that military occupational skill the service leader will have to explain the reason for the standard being so high is exactly an example of my fear about standards changing by removing the combat exclusion restriction. I am especially worried about the Army. Requiring the service leadership to explain the reason for a high standard will place inordinate pressure on that same leadership to reduce the standard in order to be part of the team. The Army has long been known for a can-do attitude, so I am confident that at some point someone will say “Can-do, sir!” and make sure any standard that might be too high simply is not. I am appalled.
As the father of four daughters I absolutely want all women to be treated fairly and to have every opportunity to excel in any forum where they want. However, men and women are different. Society accepts different sporting venues for men and women because physical strength is an issue in sports. The same is true in some military skills. This is especially true in the combat arms and even more so in the infantry, armor, and cannon field artillery. There may be a few women with the physical ability to endure the day after day physical beating that a human body takes in those career fields, but the numbers will be small. Is it really cost effective to change a system that has kept the nation safe for its history in order to find that small number of women who can handle the rigors of sustained operations in those fields? The answer should consider the loss of personal privacy that must accompany women in such positions as well. Personal privacy concerns will not affect the people making this decision either. Their rank and position will ensure that they have little to worry about there. My wife has already heard from the wife of a soldier with whom I once served that she is not happy about the intimacy and sexual attraction that might result from sitting in a foxhole side by side, day after day. Soldiers are people.
Of course, if personal privacy is not an issue for the new generation of soldier then this old soldier accepts that. Only those young men and women in uniform can address whether that is an issue. Nonetheless, General Dempsey’s description of the justification of a standard makes it clear that standards will be a problem. I think the standard of physical performance will drop. Our soldiers will gradually be less capable of overcoming sustained physical hardship. Everyone needs to face the same standard to do the job regardless of whom they are and the length of their hair.