Setting the Right Conditions for Gender Integration in the Armed Services

This post originally appeared in Small Wars Journal on September 21, 2015

By: Shelly Goode-Burgoyne

A major shift is underway across the U.S. Armed Forces. A month ago, two American Army officers, who happen to be women made history and altered the future for all American women when they graduated from our Army’s elite Ranger School. Yesterday, our Commander and Chief appointed the first openly gay Secretary of the Army, In 2010 the DOD policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, allowing openly gay soldiers to serve without fear of harassment or dishonorable discharge, and the Air Force is seeking ways to enlist qualified trans-gendered Americans. In the last few days and in advance of the 2016 deadline to open all combat jobs to American women or seek an exception in front of Congress, the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force have announced that they plan on opening all combat jobs to qualified female service-members, to include the Infantry, Navy Seals, and all Special Forces jobs. Top Navy Admiral, Jon Greenert and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command believes that if women can pass the grueling six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, they should be allowed to serve. Losey states:

“Why shouldn’t anybody who can meet these [standards] be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason,” Greenert said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Navy Times and its sister publication Defense News. “So we’re on a track to say, ‘Hey look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.'”

Nevertheless, and in spite of this progress, the United States Marine Corps, which is a component of the Department of the Navy and reports to Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, has decided to disregard the Secretary’s directive for full gender integration. On Friday, the Marine Corps Commandant publicly stated that the Marine Corps is entitled to, and will ask for an exemption from the full integration policy directed by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in 2013. If granted by Congress, the Marine Corps would be allowed to continue to ban qualified female Marines from serving in many Marine Corps combat jobs, to include Infantry. The Marine Corps has cited their recent gender neutral standards study as evidence to keep their ban in place. This gender study which was released only in summary a few days ago has already been determined to be fundamentally flawed by the Secretary of the Navy, many active duty and reserve military officers, veterans, and several members of Congress. Secretary Mabus said this about the study:

“It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking ‘this is not a good idea,’ and ‘women will never be able to do this. When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome. The Marines could have selected female volunteers who were better suited to the task of marching under heavy loads, which accounted for many of the injuries that were observed. For the women that volunteered, probably there should have been a higher bar to cross to get into the experiment.”

As our Congress prepares to consider allowing the United States Marine Corps to remain the only profession in our nation which bans a qualified American from a certain job because that American is a woman they must vigorously debate and query this study which the Marine Corps is citing as evidence to ban women from Infantry. They should also question the future and legitimacy of the Marine Corps’ antiquated policy of segregated training.

What sparked this most recent debate?  A year-long Marine Corps study on gender integration was flawed on many levels: the subject selection, the deduced purpose for the study, and the cherry-picked results that were released.

The Marine Corps study is at best inconsistent and Congress has ordered the Marine Corps Commandant, General Joseph Dunford, to brief them on the gender study within the month. The study was never intended to act as a litmus test to determine if women can serve in the Marine Corps Infantry, but rather, it was commissioned to assist in determining the gender neutral standards for the Infantry (there currently exist no standards for the Infantry, save being male). It is important to note that the full gender study has not been released by the Marine Corps and ultimately the Secretary of the Navy has the last word on this issue as all branches of our professional military fall under their prospective civilian leadership. The Marine Corps was directed to assess how individual women would perform in combat situations. However, they chose to include mostly average female Marines, and the study states these average female Marines included in this study performed inferior to men in many areas to include marksmanship and carrying heavy loads. The Marine Corps report also says that these women were injured at slightly higher rates. This is a fundamentally unsound approach as “average” female Marines would not realistically be competing for jobs in the Infantry, only high performing female Marines would. No one is arguing that any woman can be a Marine infantrywoman, but rather, only a few exceptional women can. Needless to say, many military officers, veterans, and members of Congress take issue with the study’s claims.

Marine Major Edward Carpenter, a military professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and the author of Steven Pressfield’s “The Warrior Ethos”: One Marine Officer’s Critique and Counterpoint, argues:

“The bottom line? Out of those 400 young men and women, the Marine Corps is currently willing to give 300 of them a pass straight to infantry, whether they are good shots or bad, whether they are strong or weak, fat or skinny, short or tall, fast or slow, simply because they are men. Similarly, it is willing to tell the other 100 that, regardless of how great they are with a gun, how fast they can run or how long they can exert themselves, that they cannot serve in the infantry, because the average female Marine scores lower in those areas.”

Rep (AZ). Martha McSally, a combat tested fighter pilot, and Army Colonel Ellen Haring have both raised concerns about the study.

Rep (AZ). McSally recently said this of the study:

“I echo some concerns by the secretary of the Navy related to, ‘Do we take a bunch of combat trained men and a bunch of non-combat trained support women and put them together, and just wonder how they’re going to do?’  You can study anything and get the results you might be looking for, or have some flawed assumptions in how you’re setting it up. And so we want to make sure we understand where the study was and what the results are from it, and then what to conclude from it.”

Army Colonel Ellen Haring maintains:

“The results of the Marine Corps’ research are not surprising. The service was told to assess how individual women do in combat situations, but the task force instead assessed groups with average female Marines — rather than high performers — in them.”

When you place average female Marines in an Infantry unit who have never served a day in an Infantry unit, they will naturally not initially perform at the same level as a man who has served in an Infantry unit for months or years. A better and more scientific approach would have been to select only the highest performing female Marines and see how they performed in a Marine Infantry unit. We expect a learning curve, and that is just what we have in this study, and not much more. But perhaps the real culprit is the Marine Corps’ policy of gender segregated initial training, which many argue has placed female Marines at a distinct disadvantage Army since 1918, the year the first American woman enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Many veterans and military officers have written at length about the Marine Corps’ archaic policy of segregated training and how this approach to training places female Marines at a clear disadvantage the minute they raise their hand to enlist. How can we expect an average female Marine to perform equally to male Marines when in her most fundamental initial training she is segregated from men and thus never competes with male Marines and works to reach only the highest female standard? We cannot and I think as we integrate the force we will continue to see the consequences of segregated training. USMC Major Kyleanne Hunter and USMC Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano, (who was subsequently fired for her efforts to train female Marines to meet the male standard), discuss the lower standards that often result from segregated training at length in two recent articles in the New York Times: Lt. Col. Kate Germano on Marines and Women and The Cost of Lower Standards for Women in Marine Recruitment.

The two women who graduated from Army Ranger School did so because from day one they were required to run next to men, ruck-march with thirty five pounds next to men, load and fire heavy weapons next to men, swim next to men, eat and sleep next to men in the field, patrol with men… the list goes on and on. Because women and men in the all other services train together from day one most women in these services do not work to achieve only the female standard, they work to achieve the highest male standard possible. If the Marine Corps were to open its infantry to qualified women they will surely have to de-segregate their initial training of Marines, and this might just prove more of a culture shock to the Marine Corps than the idea of a female Infantry platoon leader.

So, is Congress to allow the Commandant of the Marine Corps to say on one hand that the Marines in his ranks are reflective of the American society from which they come (which he says regularly), while on the other hand say that the 51% of our population, that American society has deemed equal and deserving of every opportunity they are qualified for, are somehow banned from his infantry? American women already serving in our military and those who have served want this and are fighting for it, not politicians or so-called feminists who have never served. When Army Ranger School opened its doors to female Army soldiers, hundreds applied. When the Navy opened submarine duty to women, hundreds applied, when the United States Army opened its Infantry training to women on an experimental basis, hundreds of female soldiers applied, and when the Marine Corps opened its Infantry Officer Basic Course hundreds of female Marines applied. The American people see this issue simply on the basis of equality and democracy. Julien Mathonniere, a respected defense scholar illustrates this point clearly when he writes:

“Common people don’t reflect about the future of infantry. But they certainly do about the place of women in society. And the military would gain nothing by pitting their operational requirements against the wider demands of the public opinion; lest they be insincere about narrowing the civilian-military gap. People want their military to remain a true and fair emanation of the society they live in. It is not as if they were two separate entities.”

The military is not a brotherhood. It’s not a sisterhood.  We are all comrades in arms. Let’s hope the Marines can help set the conditions for future success for all who serve.


Net Neutrality, And Why Veterans Should Care About It

This Post originally appeared in Havok Journal on March 5, 2015

“Freedom of connection with any application to any party is the fundamental social basis of the internet. And now, is the basis of the society built on the internet”. ~ Tim Burners-Lee – English computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web


Net Neutrality is really confusing, so much so in fact, that most of us don’t take the time needed to understand it; but we should. In the next year legislation will be passed or not passed on this issue, and no matter how it goes down, one thing is for certain, the future of how we all use the internet will forever be changed for better or worse. This legislation will affect all Americans, but there is one group of Americans who should pay extra attention to the net neutrality debate: American Veterans. Here are the down and dirty facts about Net Neutrality and Veterans– your smart card, so to speak.

Close Up Of Person At Laptop Using Mobile PhoneWhat is Net Neutrality: Net Neutrality is a term coined by Columbia Law Scholar Tim Wu in 2003. It is the idea that the internet is a free space where all content is treated equally or neutrally. Content cannot be slowed, prioritized, or blocked depending on an internet provider’s interests. Customers cannot be subjected to different tiers of service based on what they pay.

Imagine if Verizon or Comcast could charge Americans one very expensive rate in order to see everything on the net, and another cheaper rate to see only what the internet provider wanted us to see. As it stands today, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC, has ensured that all content on the net plays on an even field; all data is treated equally. This current situation sounds great right? We want to keep it right? It is, and most do want to keep it, but astoundingly, there are some Americans who want to fundamentally change the way we use our internet.

Who could possibly be against a neutral equal internet? Mainly the large media conglomerates; companies like Verizon, Comcast, ABC, and NBC. These large companies believe that they should be able to configure the access to the internet that they are providing as they wish; they feel that they should be able to experiment with different business models, promote certain things and not promote others. If that isn’t enough to scare the hell out of you…it gets scarier; each one of these colossal telecoms has a few key Senators/Congressmen/women (mostly Republicans) in their pocket, and these small group of lawmakers suddenly seem very interested in blocking the FCC from being able regulate the internet to prohibit such discrimination of information.

Many Republican law makers know that the large campaign donations they receive from these telecoms could dry up if they don’t block this legislation. Republican Senator and Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, John Thune of South Dakota recently stated: “It is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself.”

The backstory: A long time ago the FCC put in place regulations for phone companies; they determined that telephones and the lines they run on were a public utility, and thus, phone companies could not favor certain conversations and could not discriminate their services. In early 2000, with the rise of huge internet providers (Comcast and Verizon), the FCC began to see some troubling activity on the Net. In 2007 Comcast and AT&Tinitiated the blocking and slowing of large quantities of content from certain companies/organizations. The FCC was concerned that the telecoms had become Gate-keepers of sorts of the internet. So in 2010 the FCC laid down the Open Internet Rules. These rules enforced three ideas:

Transparency. Internet access providers must disclose how they manage their networks.

No blocking. Internet access providers can’t block access to legal content or applications.

No discrimination. Basically, net neutrality. Internet access providers cannot promote or favor one traffic source over another.

The FCC attempted to implement these net neutrality rules twice-but failed. Both times the FCC’s attempts were struck down after multiple Court challenges by deep pocketed telecoms; the courts sided with the telecoms and ruled that the internet is fundamentally different from a utility; that it was an information providing service, and therefore should not be regulated at all.  Now the FCC is attempting for a third time to ensure the Net remains a free digital format. Thankfully, Tom Wheeler, the leader of the FCC is a former lobbyist for the cable wireless industry-and has dug-in. He plans on fighting his corner.

soldier silhouette and flag   dpc
Without Net Neutrality, veterans’ voices might not get heard.

Why should Veterans care about this issue: The Iraq/Afghanistan War is the longest war in our history; 13 years to be exact, and even though only 1% of Americans fought in this war, 1% of our nation is still a lot of people – a lot of people with an American experience wholly different from the rest of society. So it would make sense that this unique population would organize in order to communicate with each other and provide desperately needed support to their community. This veteran organization has primarily taken place over the internet through online charities, journals, discussion groups, blogs, NGOs, activism, social media, and small start-up veteran run businesses of all types.

Imagine if these invaluable small Veteran run charities, NGOs, news outlets, and activists were subjected to tiered service and paid prioritization by giant telecoms? This pay to play situation would result in small veteran run NGOs and start-ups being shut out of the market because they likely could not afford this tiered service. Imagine what the Veteran Community would not have today if our internet was tiered and prioritized by telecoms? We would not have Task and Purpose, Wounded Warriors Project, Team Rubicon, Red, White, and Blue, countless popular veteran and military blogs…the list goes on and on.

What happens next and how can Veterans prevent the Internet from being commandeered by the giant telecoms? Two weeks ago Tom Wheeler the head of the FCC…the former telecom lobbyist, proposed the strongest open internet protections the American people have ever seen. Luckily for us he has a powerful tool in his tool-box: the Title II of the Communication Act. Title II was written to regulate telephone companies and allows the FCC to enforce consumer privacy rules, extract funds from Internet Providers to assist rural communities, educators, and the poor. He has vowed to go to the ropes and fight any last ditch effort by Republican lawmakers in Congress. But these Republicans at the FCC have also vowed to vote against Wheeler’s rules from becoming law.

Veterans must identify their elected officials and find out how they stand on this issue; they must read about net neutrality and seek to understand it…telecoms and certain politicians are banking on this multifaceted issue just being too complicated for the average American to understand. We must prove them wrong, or this legislation will quietly slip by us, and we won’t notice its effects until it is far too late. Veterans must use the powerful lobbying organizations that we have built and lobby for the FCCs ability to keep the internet a free digital space where all web traffic is treated equally regardless of its owner or content; our Veteran community, benefits, health, place in society, and future endeavors depend on it.

“Martian”…A Book Review

“Of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.” ~ NASA Astronaut Mark Watney, Sol 199, Mars

A Sol is one day on Mars, and it is 37 minutes longer than a day on Earth, and NASA astronaut, Mark Watney, ends up spending a whole lot more Sols on Mars than he or anyone else ever dreamed he would. During a fierce Martian sand storm, Astronaut Watney, the most junior of his crew becomes lost and injured, and his Commander, believing him dead is forced to abort the mission and re-deploy from Mars without him. But Mark Watney is not dead, he has somehow survived, but he is utterly alone, has limited supplies, and is in the harshest environment known to man. He cannot communicate with Earth, and no one knows he is alive. All Astronaut Mark Watney possesses that can possibly save his life, is the gear left behind by his crew, his space suit, a whole lot of Martian sand, and his ingenuity.

“I am pretty much fucked. That’s my considered opinion. Fucked.” This is the first sentence in “The Martian”.“The Martian” is a story that the military and veteran community will love. The themes that run through Weir’s novel are universal to soldiers. Soldiers will intimately understand the constant struggle with one’s gear…and trusting it to save your life, the ever present battle with nature, the absolute need for the facts, constant inspections, the hysterical and wretched moments that are often illustrated as one literally fights for their life. Soldiers will intimately understand how Watney’s survival on Mars, can be both humiliating and divine at the same time, they will relate to the author’s themes of true bravery, true fear, friendship, and stepping off the line, genuinely not having any idea of what lies in front of you. Andy Weir is a keen writer, a writer that takes chances, one who trusts his reader to “get” all the science, and one that embraces exploration and human survival like no writer I have encountered in some time.

The MartianEveryone has heard someone say that a book was “so good, they just couldn’t put it down”…well New York Times Best seller, “The Martian” is so good, I literally had to put it down. At certain points Weir’s novel simply engulfs you, and you are afraid to read one more page, fearing that either you are actually on Mars with Mark Watney instead of in your neighborhood coffee shop, or that the page you’re on, will be the page in which Mark Watney dies on Mars alone. “The Martian” is the kind of book, one feverishly scribbles notes in the margins…my unreadable notes are all over it.

“The Martian” is not about sex, it is not about war or violence, it is not about romance, and it is not about drugs, or rock and roll. “The Martian” is infinitely more; it is a brilliantly written, unbelievable hilarious account about survival, science, trust, never leaving a team member behind, human error, despair, hope, the unbreakable American spirit, and the adventure and terror of truly going where no one has been before.

“The Martian” fiercely exemplifies that Space travel is like war – no matter how many politicians and uninformed Americans think it is safer and more sterile than it’s ever been, both are still a really big deal. Both are messy, punishingly hard, expensive, things break and people die. I am not a NASA Astronaut, but damn if I didn’t categorically comprehend what Mark Watney was going through on Mars, damn if I didn’t believe that Watney’s situation was absolutely believable, damn if I wasn’t in his corner the whole time, damn if I didn’t want to give NASA a trillion dollars tomorrow and volunteer for a one way ticket to Mars, and damn if I wasn’t proud to be an American as I read the last page of this book.

American Women and the Selective Service: It’s Time.


This article originally appeared in Havok Journal

By Shelly Goode-Burgoyne

“The soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”  ~ General George Patton

A few months ago Norway quietly became the first Western nation to require women (over half of their population) to participate in mandatory military service. The bill passed with a 96% majority in Oslo; the seat of Norwegian Parliament. The law will require all medically qualified Norwegian women aged between 19 and 44 years to complete at least 19 months of military service. During wartime Norwegian women will also be subject to conscription. The first Norwegian women to serve their 19 month stint will meet for training in the summer of 2016. Norway’s northern neighbor, Sweden is also in the process of passing a very similar law. Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said in a statement:

Conscription is an important principle of the social contract between citizens and the state, but only now can we say that all of the state’s citizens take part in this fully. Norway is now carrying out almost pioneering work internationally. We have every reason to be proud.”

draft female
“Equality” means sharing the benefits and the burdens of citizenship.

Unlike Norway, the United States does not practice compulsory military service; we do not conscript our male citizens into military service. We are, and have been an all-volunteer force since the end of the Vietnam War, and the finest in the world in my opinion. However our country is not completely without the means to quickly raise an army during crisis; we have managed to maintain something called the Selective Service System, and every time an American male turns 18 in this country he must place his name onto this federal list.

To be clear the Selective Service System is not a draft, but simply a list of all American men age 18-44, to be called up for any reason of national emergency that our government sees fit. During the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and most recently the Vietnam War, the Selective Service System was utilized to fill needed military vacancies.

Since the end of the Vietnam War and the inequitable means by which the Selective Service System drafted young American men into service, the Selective Service System has rarely made waves or attracted much attention at all. This independent government agency resides quietly in a nondescript office building in Arlington Virginia; in fact, finding its actual physical address is not an easy task…but don’t be fooled, there are real consequences if an 18 year old American man does not register. An American man’s failure to register his name and permanent address with the Selective Service System constitutes breaking federal law, and young men actually become ineligible for federal student loans, grants, and many other benefits of our free American society. American women have never been required or permitted to voluntarily register their names, even to fill support roles.

Believe it or not many Americans, to include myself, actually have a problem with this discrimination, based entirely on gender. Twice this exclusion of young American women in the Selective Service Registry has been brought to the Supreme Court, and twice the men who have brought the case have lost. The first Supreme Court challenge to the exclusion of women into the Selective Service, Rostker v. Goldberg was decided in 1981. During this case, The Department of Defense used the Combat Exclusion Policy as the cornerstone for their decision to continue to exclude women from registering their names. In 1981 the United States Supreme Court, stated in their decision:

“The existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress’ decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them.”[45]

Iraqi Freedom
So the reason women don’t have to register for the Selective Service is…?

This Combat Exclusion Policy, the foundation of the Court’s 1981 decision came to an end in January of 2013, and taking this into account, The National Coalition for Men appropriately filed a new lawsuit in April 4, 2013, that again challenges the legality of requiring only males to register for Selective Service. This recent lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Selective Service System in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, but was dismissed on July 29, 2013. The NCFM has since filed for appeal.

Beyond challenging the exclusion in the Supreme Court many lobbying organizations are using different and more creative means to change this outdated and discriminating law. The Reserve Officers Association, a well-known congressionally chartered organization, with strong lobbying power also thinks the time has come for equality on this issue. In fact last year the ROA recently drew up Resolution 13-03, for which they will lobby heavily for in 2015…it calls for all American women to register their names on their 18th birthday. ROA officers state:

“Even though 275,000 women have deployed to fight America’s recent wars, an inequality exists between men and women between the ages of 18-26 under the Selective Service Act, women should be treated equally as responsible, competent, contributing members of America’s society.”

So what will come to pass on this issue? Taking into account the recent January 2013 termination of DOD’s combat exclusion policy, will women eventually have to register on their 18th birthdays? Will women actually be required to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk? Interestingly, Lawrence G. Romo, the current Director of the Selective Service System has stated: “The Selective Service System, if given the mission and additional modest resources, is capable of registering and drafting women.”

Let me first say that I don’t really care that much what our Congress does with the Selective Service Registry. If our elected leaders decide to alter it fundamentally or get rid of it altogether, so be it. In all truthfulness, I am not so sure how I feel about the federal government possessing a massive list of names to do with what they please, and frankly, if I am being honest with myself, I actually think that it is very unlikely that politicians would be willing to pay the political cost of requiring young American women to pay the same price for citizenship as men.

In my mind, what is a lot more likely, is Congress simply scrapping the requirement for men altogether. However, if our politicians actually do have the courage to preserve our nation’s only means of calling up American citizens in times of crisis, than I think we must require the 53% of our population who have two X chromosomes to register their names.

If American women expect to reap the benefits of our free American society; if they have any hopes of participating fully in our democracy, then they, like men ought to be expected to bear the responsibility of defending it as well.

Is it 1987?


I write and read a lot about the integration of women into the Infantry, and frankly at this point the narrative surrounding this issue, (including my own) has become a bit repetitive. For me repetitiveness on this issue is a good thing; it means it has been decided, that little remains to discuss.  But once and awhile, someone will write something on the subject that sounds like it came from 1987, thus compelling me to once again write about women in the Infantry.

Usually these types of unsupported arguments against women in the Infantry are not taken seriously and reside on one’s personal Blog or in a publication that is not highly respected by academics or senior military officers. Yet recently, the Marine Corps Gazette, a fairly respected magazine surprisingly published an “award winning” essay by Marine Captain Leah Serrano.  In this article, Captain Serrano opines about all the reasons women do not belong in combat units. She lists many reasons, all having to do exclusively with the characteristics of the female gender and shockingly nothing else.

So how to counter Captain Serrano’s predictable and recycled arguments? Should I counter her in a “hook and jab” sort of way, taking on each of her reasons individually like I usually do? No, not this time, this time I am going to reject the temptation to keep my head below the “weeds”. If this style of rebuttal is what you seek, there is a superb counter article written by an Army Officer which decimates all of CPT Serrano’s ridiculous and sophomoric statements about rape, promotion, Infantry brotherhood, injury, culture, farting, and burping; it is here:

Because CPT Serrano immediately cedes that some women can indeed physically and mentally qualify to serve in the Infantry, she has thankfully exposed her flank and given me a chance to advance, traversing above the “weeds” in order to counter her position on higher ground, ultimately exposing the real reason she and many in the Marine Corps think women do not belong in combat units. If some women can physically and mentally perform in the Infantry, as CPT Serrano clearly states, than CPT Serrano’s opinions are at their intellectual core based only on gender, and how the female gender alone, prohibits women from serving in the Infantry. She states:

“My argument has little to do with whether women can pass the Infantry Officer Course or Infantry Training Battalion, or endure the hardships of combat. Even those select women who can physically endure the infantry are still posing a threat to the infantry mission and readiness”.

So here is the moment in which I lift my head above the weeds to see what’s really going on, and what is really going on is this: The refusal of this commissioned Marine Corps Officer and the Corps at large to fully embrace equality based only on physical and mental ability is eerily similar to the racist beliefs rampant in our military in the 1940’s and beyond, specifically the very racist way in which the Marine Corps went about integrating black men into units.

Right about now is also the moment in which people, generally Marines say to me: “How can you compare the integration of black men into the Marine Corps with the integration of women into the Infantry? Men are men, and they generally have the same physical ability, and so back then there was not this fear of lowering a physical standard or changing a culture.” This is true to some degree; men are men and do generally perform at the same physical level regardless of skin color, or much else, but even this was not good enough for the Corps in the 1940’s. When the Marine Corps integrated black men into units, no mention of their physical ability to do or not do the job was ever made; the resistance to racial integration was always about their inferior character, their difference, their intellect, their distraction, the color of their skin…so yes, I am comparing the blatant sexism in CPT Serrano’s article and frankly the sexism that exists in the Marine Corps at large, to the racism that existed in the Marine Corps in the 19 40’s, and beyond. Believe it or not, this does not actually seem too far a stretch to me. I comfortably make the comparison for very good reason.

If we are content in saying that some women are physically and mentally able to serve in an Infantry unit, and CPT Serrano did just this in her essay, than why exactly does the Corps have a huge problem with qualified women in the Infantry? As with racial integration, it is all the other “issues”, issues that revolve around one thing and one thing only; gender. She writes:

“Having women in an infantry unit will disrupt the infantry’s identity, motivational tactics, and camaraderie. The average infantryman is in his late teens or early twenties. At that age, men are raging with hormones and are easily distracted by women and sex. The infantry is the one place where young men are able to focus solely on being a warrior without the distraction of women. They can fart, burp, tell raunchy jokes, walk around naked, swap sex stories, wrestle, and simply be young men together. Although perhaps not the most polite environment, this is the exact kind of atmosphere that promotes unit cohesion and the brotherly bond that is invaluable. No matter how masculine a woman is, she is still female and simply does not mesh with the infantry brotherhood.”

If the Corps is comfortable saying that women absolutely cannot perform physically in an Infantry unit, than I would not and could not make the “race” comparison, but the Corps has not said that, CPT Serrano has not said that. The Corps has a long record of being on the incorrect side of history; and often trots out the personal opinion of its officers as hard evidence or justification for discrimination.

In 1948 COL Holcomb, USMC published LOI 421(Letter of Instruction). In it he lays out the rules of engagement for integrating black men into units. Here is one quote from the once classified document:

“While rapid promotion when deserved is necessary, it is essential that in no case, shall there be colored noncommissioned officers senior to white men in the same unit, and desirable that few, if any be the same rank.”

In paragraph 7 of  LOI 421, COL Holcomb writes:

“Since the inclusion of colored personnel in the Marine Corps organizations is a new departure, it is requested that the commanding officers make a study of the situation as it exists from time to time and the problems involved, and make report to the Commandant, Marine Corps. This report should include  the adaptation of Negros to military discipline and guard duty, their attitude toward other personnel and vise verse, liberty facilities, recreation facilities, ,and any other manner that would be of interest to the Commandant.”

COL Holcomb also stated under testimony that:

“there would be a definite loss of efficiency in the Marine Corps if we have to take Negros” and that given the choice between having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 5,000 blacks he would much rather have the whites.”

If some women can physically perform in the Infantry branch, than on exactly what grounds are we arguing to keep them from the Infantry? CPT Serrano’s prize winning essay can be filed right next to COL Holcomb’s LOI, of 1948; it is the same, and I actually would argue that if one believes qualified women should not serve in an Infantry unit only due to the characteristics of their gender and not their physical and mental ability, than yes this is not enlightened and is archaic…and yes, even sexist.

As of today, no one has been able to produce convincing, or even thought-provoking hard evidence that would ban soldiers and Marines with two X chromosomes from the Infantry. Monotonous concerns about feminine character, sexual promiscuity, rape, or complex gender dynamics does not equal an insurmountable berm to the inclusion of women in Infantry units, and they never will.

Right about now is also when I always remember this quote, by Julien Mathonniere , a respected defense scholar and a man who also prefers to keep his head above the weeds in hopes of seeing what is really going on:

“Common people don’t reflect about the future of infantry. But they certainly do about the place of women in society. And the military would gain nothing by pitting their operational requirements against the wider demands of the public opinion; lest they be insincere about narrowing the civilian-military gap. We are too often left with the disturbing impression that male officers are desperately scrambling around for arguments against what merely amounts to a democratic choice. Armed forces only reflect what society is and where it wants to go. Officers cannot complain about their growing disconnect from civilians on the one hand, and staunchly refuse to accommodate their preferences on the other. This is not the way democracy works. People want their military to remain a true and fair emanation of the society they live in. It is not as if they were two separate entities.”

That Time I Packed A Bad Guy’s Exit Wound With His Own Testicle

Wow, just when you thought there wasn’t anything else to read this guy comes along.

Thought Catalog

Producers Note: The following is an excerpt from “Lest We Forget” by Leo Jenkins. The true story of an Army Ranger Medic in the Global War on Terror. -Raul Felix

I don’t even remember the flight or the infill. The first shots that rang out on the objective startled me awake. Ah, there is my nightly adrenaline fix! I’ve got my feet under me now and me and my boys from second squad are chasing a couple of guys through a fig orchard. The UH6 “little bird” helicopters are circling above giving us a play by play on the direction that the two squirters were headed. They started doing gun runs on those poor bastards. There really isn’t much that you can do when those guns open up, the 160th pilots are the most accurate in the world. They are the reason why a lot of special operations guys that…

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A Dose of Reality for Ferguson, Missouri

Th other side


Unlike much of America, I’ve stayed quiet about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. As a cop, I know initial media reports about any incident are usually wrong. I also know that many media outlets and internet commentators deliberately twist facts to inflame emotion. They’ll throw out empty, meaningless phrases like “he was shot in broad daylight, in his own hometown” even though that has literally nothing to do with the legality or illegality of the shooting.

And it goes without saying that in any incident involving a police officer, many people with absolutely no understanding of police work or lethal violence suddenly think they’re experts. After Brown’s death I expected a loud chorus of hysterical cries from people who had no idea what the hell they were talking about. I haven’t been disappointed.

“But he was unarmed!”

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the…

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