Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a historic announcement on Thursday stating the Pentagon will open all combat jobs to women with zero restrictions.
“This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They’ll be able to drive tanks, give orders, lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter said. This included special operation jobs like the Navy SEALS, Rangers, and Special Forces.
There are a few things to consider about integrating women into all aspects of combat military operations when the end state is maintaining the most elite and lethal fighting force in the world.
First of all, there has to be a mission standard, not a gender standard. That means all physical and mental requirements are set to a standard that is necessary to accomplish whatever mission each particular unit is tasked with. No quotas, no double standards, no “separate but equal” physical standards. An individual, man or woman, either qualifies or they don’t. No exceptions. This means only a few women will likely be able to qualify for these special operations and infantry units, and that’s okay. It’s about quality, not quantity. We want the best for the job.
Second, there’s a considerable amount of controversy surrounding unit cohesion and morale, and whether men will be willing to accept women in their ranks and whether it will detract from the mission. In my experience as a Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot in a male-dominated unit, if women who are accepted to the same unit successfully accomplished the exact same tests, physical requirements, and had no special treatment, there won’t be an issue. Resentment will occur if female quotas are applied to each unit to satisfy political agendas.
That is why it is that much more critical to maintain the mission standard. There are always exceptions to the rules, but that’s called life. If people, regardless of their gender, can’t handle someone disliking them for no reason at all, they probably shouldn’t be trying out for the infantry or a special operations job.
Third, Secretary Carter’s decision to allow women to serve in all combat jobs now means that the Selective Service law is out of date and discriminatory towards men. In 1981, the Supreme Court ruled that a male-only military draft was constitutional because women were banned from combat jobs and the draft’s intent is to fill combat replacements during a time of war. Female exemption from combat jobs meant there was no requirement to register with the Selective Service. With Carter’s historic decision, American women could likely be signing up for the Selective Service within 30 days of their eighteenth birthday in the very near future.
Bottom line: qualified women should be given the opportunity to try out, the same way qualified men can. If we’re enforcing equality, there are no exceptions. Women should neither be given special treatment nor be used by politicians or appointees who want to fill quotas who think their presence in these new units will benefit optics.
Once the dust settles and the media buzz is over, the mission still has to be accomplished. National security must always remain the military’s top priority by ensuring that we have the best soldiers accomplishing their very daunting missions, regardless of their gender.