Recipe for Disaster: Assigning Unqualified Women to Combat Leadership

By Jude Eden Published on March 21, 2016

Defense Secretary Ash Carter grabbed headlines last week when he announced that President Obama would soon nominate the first woman to head a major U.S. military Northern combatant command. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Marine Corps Times, female officers and staff non-commissioned officers (NCOs) will soon be assigned to infantry units in order to “begin building the cadre of women leaders,” to support female enlisted Marines. Males in both ranking and subordinate positions are supposed to accept female leadership that has not completed the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) because they will be serving in support roles:

These female Marines or sailors will help male infantrymen adjust to the changes in their units before female grunts join their battalions, said Col. Anne Weinberg, deputy director of manpower integration.

“We really didn’t look at them as helping the junior female Marines,” she said. “We really looked at helping the unit writ large — as a resource to the commander, as a sounding board …”

The first ingredient in this recipe for disaster is the female Marines’ lack of qualification. That no women have been able to pass the grueling IOC may be ignored by the Pentagon and Marine Corps leadership, but it certainly won’t be by subordinates in the infantry units themselves, nor should it. Where the women did not earn their place like the rest of the grunts, there will be no trust, respect or faith in their leadership. And since these women will not have worked their way up in the field, they will have no idea how these units should be run.

That they are supposed to be in “supporting roles” is meaningless since they will be in charge of the lower enlisted ranks. Placing unqualified female leaders, especially officers, in combat units goes against the very essence of Marine infantry officers whose motto is Ductus Exemplo, leadership by example.

The IOC standards are very high because infantry officers must not only be educated, brave and highly athletic. They also must be better at everything than the members of their units because Marine officers lead their men into battle from the front. The pressure is already on to lower IOC standards so that women can pass them  and thereby the military can meet the “diversity metrics” (quotas) by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and others.

This is what “gender-norming” has always meant: standards that are equal but lower for all, and  tests and events where women’s performance is consistently inferior to men’s are diluted or removed. Thus the disparities between the sexes are masked — until, of course, they resurface in a real battle situation where the need to sprint quickly in heavy gear and carry heavy weapons, overcome an attacker in close quarters combat, or haul a wounded comrade out of battle is no longer a matter of passing some watered down test designed to make Washington politicians happy but a life-and-death matter of uncompromising physics.

The other glaring element that will destroy unit cohesion and lead to mission failure is the splitting of the chain of command:

“The female officers and staff NCOs’ secondary mission will be to serve as a resource for any female infantrymen who join the battalions, Weinberg said. “If they feel like there’s something they can’t talk to their male leader about, just to have that same gender face.”

This will tear out the heart of the combat units, which is their small-team leadership: the fire team leaders, squad leaders and platoon commanders. Under this plan Marines can go cry to the female when they don’t like whatever their male leadership is doing, just like children playing one parent off the other. Such division can only result in hate and discontent in the ranks, obliterating the good order and discipline so essential to their success.

The recipe wouldn’t be complete without the requisite politically correct indoctrination when it comes to assigning individual jobs within the units for which Marines will be trained using “vignettes.”

“Some of the scenarios are: You’re in the field; you only have this certain amount of space for billeting and you’ve got three women and six guys; how are you going to billet?” Weinberg explained.

Putting the “right” number of women in positions regardless of qualification – just like their leadership – will be the order of the day for any Marine whose own promotions and positions will be at risk if they object or balk in any way.

This is a set-up for destruction of the combat units from the inside out. As with the combat integration policy as a whole, there is nothing in place to assess the real fallout. When it fails, those promoting it have already set in place to blame leadership and training. But there’s no leadership or training in the world that can make success out of an unworkable plan that depends on denying the realities of human nature, human biology and combat. The next president, if willing, may be able to turn this around, but there will be a lot of damage in the meantime to both the fabric of the combat arms and the men and women serving therein.

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