A Tale of Two Combat Integration Tests: Army v. Marines
With the January deadline approaching for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s decision on opening all combat units to women, the contrast between the Marines integration testing and the Army’s Ranger training is telling.
The Marines set out to answer a question: Can women perform at the same level as men in the infantry? While adversaries of the women’s combat exemption have been hard at work trying to discredit the testing and the results, the Marines’ gender integration study was executed according to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) required methodology. It had buy-in and observation from the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the University of Pittsburgh, Michigan State University and Rand Corp. Contrary to the claim that the Marines were biased against the females, participants and overseers say the opposite was true.
The Marines’ Ground Combat Element-Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) was directed “to test the hypothesis that an integrated ground combat arms unit under gender neutral standards will perform just as well as a similar all male unit.” The results disproved the hypothesis. All-male units outperformed coed units in 69 percent of the 134 combat tasks. Women were slower, were less accurate shooters, struggled with tasks requiring upper body strength such as climbing over walls and lifting a 200-pound dummy off the field, and retained more than double the injuries of men, among other things:
The assessment across all occupational specialties revealed that gender integrated teams, squads or crews demonstrated, with very few exceptions, degraded performance in the time to complete tasks, move under load and achieve timely effects on target as compared to all-male teams, squads or crews.
The results even showed where standards should be raised for infantry men. This is vital information for a branch whose sole purpose is killing the enemy. We can be proud of the service the participants did by hashing out the details of what direct ground combat really requires and what the limits are for women’s contributions.
Army Ranger school seems to have been a different story. Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver were lauded as having “made history” when they graduated on August 22 this year. But shortly after, whistleblowers said that the women got extra training, special treatment, were held to lower standards and the graduation planned in advance. Worse, they’ve said success was the predetermined outcome whether women were successful or not. As People reported on September 25:
“A woman will graduate Ranger School,” a general told shocked subordinates this year while preparing for the first females to attend a “gender integrated assessment” of the grueling combat leadership course starting April 20, sources tell PEOPLE. “At least one will get through. [Emphasis mine]
That directive set the tone for what was to follow, sources say.
“It had a ripple effect” at Fort Benning, where Ranger School is based, says a source with knowledge of events at the sprawling Georgia Army post. “Even though this was supposed to be just an assessment, everyone knew. The results were planned in advance.”
Giving even more credence to the whistleblowers, one of the graduates herself acknowledged special treatment, People also reported:
“I thought we were going to be dropped after we failed Darby [part of Benning] the second time,” Griest said at a press conference before graduation. “We were offered a Day One Recycle.”
The report came just after congressman Steve Russell (R-OK), a former Army Ranger and career military man himself, asked the Army for proof of standards to include the women’s training records. After stalling for a couple of weeks, the Army informed him that the records were destroyed. The supposed living proof that women are just as combat-capable as infantry men and their records were destroyed? It stinks to high heaven.
The Army denies it, but unfortunately lying and concealing data concerning combat-related jobs to women is nothing new for the military (except the Marines). In the 1990s, eager to prove their diversity and women-friendliness post-Tailgate, the Navy and Air Force were competing to be the first to open combat aircraft jobs to women. The Navy gave the same directive to their pilot instructors that the Rangers allegedly got: A woman will pass. And so they did.
And then a female pilot, Kara Hultgreen, killed herself when she crashed her plane into the water doing a routine landing maneuver she’d failed at before. Previously touted as proof that women are just as capable combat pilots, the training records revealed that both Hultgreen and the female she went through training with were passed where men would have failed. They were put in positions for which they didn’t qualify and when it resulted in the death of the female pilot, the Navy lied about it and tried to hide the evidence. All so they could show the administration how diverse and not sexist they supposedly were.
What if Hultgreen been deployed during the Gulf war? How many lives might she have cost in combat action when the pressure was really on? We have no idea how many more women have been “passed” in this way over the years, but we’re expected to see the female Rangers’ graduation as evidence that women strengthen combat readiness.
This is what the Army has done to pass women in their Ranger program. To lie to the American people about these women’s ability to wage combat with and against men is gross deceit, a deceit then used to justify opening all combat units to women. It’s already horrible for the women involved, since it set them up for humiliation when the truth inevitably surfaced, and for future failure on the battlefield. ISIS won’t give those women a day-one recycle.
It doesn’t help active duty women to be pushed through and given something they didn’t earn. Frankly, it’s insulting to our intelligence and dignity. It will degrade American ability to fight war on the ground. It will get more men and women killed. And it will inflate costs — the human and the financial — for disabilities upon return from war.
It also diminishes the real achievements of women in both the Army and the Marines. Women that want to push their boundaries and charge hard are exactly the women we want in our military and on deployments. We’ll retain and recruit far fewer of them if the combat units are fully integrated.
While the female Marines were set up for success, the female Rangers were set up for disaster. The female Marines didn’t fail at anything. They helped determine whether women strengthen combat readiness. They helped us to identify standards that needed adjusting and the limits of top-performing female Marines. This, like the data on rates of injury and other results, is information we need.
The Rangers, in contrast, were pawns in a scheme that treats the Army as a laboratory for social engineering. Those tough, high-performing female Marines will go on to do great things and can be proud of what they’ve done. The female Rangers can’t take any pride in their tab and will never be able to assuage doubts in their abilities.
The Army’s deceit is even more reason for congressional scrutiny over the repeal of women’s combat exemption. A decision that affects all active duty women, all draft-age women, all infantrymen and our national security belongs not to one man, not to a political appointee, and not even with the military itself. The decision belongs to the American people whose sons and daughters risk their lives to protect us from our most vicious foreign enemies.