Your truly along the Serbian/Macedonia border in the late 90's (sadly working under a United Nation's mandate).
Yours truly along the Serbian/Macedonia border in the late 90’s (sadly working under a United Nations mandate). Guess who got to haul the SINCGAR on patrol?

In 1997 I enlisted in the U.S. Army straight out of high school and spent three years as a mechanized infantryman.

After Basic Training in Fort Benning, Ga., I was sent to Schweinfurt, Germany, to join my unit, Charlie Co., 1/18th Infantry Battalion. I was part of First Infantry Division, known by most civilians as “The Big Red One.”

My time in service does not include the kind of deployments faced by the men and women who serve in a post 9/11 world, but I am confident that I can speak knowledgeably on the culture of combat units.

And I am confident Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s announcement that the front lines will now be an option for women is, for all intents and purposes, a policy shift that will get good soldiers killed.

While most commentary since the shift was revealed Wednesday has focused on the physical rigors demanded in combat roles, little has been mentioned about the sexual element that first sergeants and company commanders will now be forced to deal with.

Read the rest over at The Washington Times

Editor’s note: I’m trying to knock out “Damn Few” by the former Head of Basic and Advanced SEAL Training so I can give you guys a worthy review. In the mean time, hopefully this piece I did for TWT will serve as an adequate addendum to yesterday’s post on women in combat units.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

13 comments

  1. I don’t get the “sexual element” argument. The same type of “unit cohesion” argument was made to keep blacks from serving on the front lines, women from serving at all, and recently, gays from serving.

    Romance? How do our allies handle it? Israel, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland all allow women and have done so for more than 20 years. Canada already allows qualifying women in combat roles.

    The US military already has rules in place to govern romantic relationships. When you strip away everything, isn’t the root of the problem truly a matter of discipline? Relationship drama that jeopardize unit cohesion is a matter of discipline. Rape is a *severe* breakdown in military discipline. Perhaps it should be regarded as a capital offense during war. And not just men raping women. Men also rape men in the military. According to The Guardian “…military rape is not only a women’s issue. According to the Veterans Affairs Office, 37% of the sexual trauma cases reported last year [2010] were men.”

    I think rapist, considering the damage they do to their fellow warriors, their unit, and their honor, should prosecuted much more harshly than they do now. During times of war, they should hang.

    I’ve never served but have studied military history as a hobby. How does discipline not solve your concern?

    1. As I said, if other MOS’s want to deal with all the sexual BS that happens in their units, fine. But in a line unit that shit will get people killed. I wasn’t in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I was deployed and I saw the crap that went on (e.g., tower guard blow jobs). In Macedonia nobody got killed because the guy who was supposed to be observing the border was observing … other things. In a war zone good soldiers will die because of that stuff.

      My brother mentioned Petraeus to me last night. How many soldiers were injured or died because he was focused on an affair with another woman — while deployed? What will happen to unit cohesion when some woman starts dating her team leader and then cheats on him with her squad leader? Do you really want to give 1st Sergeants and Company Commanders that headache on top of all the other crap they have to deal with? No thanks.

      I’m not sure why you brought up the rape thing, because I didn’t.

      Here’s one of my buddy’s Facebook status related to this subject, but he has a different angle than me:

      Female thinking she is IN: I stood there I was mortared, I dove into a ditch and then we drove off… I found a bad guy.

      Infantryman: I walked 12km up a mountain, got into a 6 hour firefight, had to carry my wounded down with me while continuing to fight.

      Yeah that’s the exact same thing.

      Dempsey is already putting it out there: They’re going to lower standards. F**k these f**kheads.

      http://cnsnews.com/news/article/gen-dempsey-if-women-can-t-meet-military-standard-pentagon-will-ask-does-it-really-have

    2. I also liked how you used an ad hominem about German SF to avoid my point. What about Canada’s female combat troops? Are combat units with females roving bands of Real World Las Vegas drama and blowjob orgies? No.

      How about Israel? Here’s an article from 2008:
      “A female Arab soldier has joined the IAF’s elite Airborne Combat Search and Rescue Unit 669” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3527584,00.html

      I agree with you about the Dempsey quote. I don’t think the standards should be lowered to make it any easier for anyone. On the same token, if women can meet the standards, I see no reason not to let them have the opportunity. If they can’t lift a radio or M60, then they can’t have that role. Fear of blowjobs notwithstanding. Because, really, is that what we are afraid of?

      Again, if troops can’t keep keep from fornicating during patrol or while on guard together, maybe we need better discipline. If the military leaders can’t enforce discipline for troops being engaged in guard tower blowjobs, then we need new military leadership.

      That brings up a very good question. Considering the possible ramifications of the guard not performing his assigned duties, did your CO find out?

    3. They will lower standards. That’s what they always do. They already have … and that’s where my problem comes in. Again, my “Damn Few” review will cover all of this.

      I know exactly the kind of soldier you would have been. It’s funny. You would have been the guy who says, “Well, AR-105-3-7 says no dating within the company, and that’s the rule, so it won’t happen.” There were always those guys…

      In regards to your question about the CO finding out, you show your hand again. You would not fare well in the infantry, my friend. Running to the CO to deal with a problem that could be handled within your own squad or platoon … not cool. And that’s an understatement.

      I don’t have the IDF’s MOS breakdown on me, but even if I did I doubt that many women are in active-duty infantry units. AND … even if they were, Israel has a very unique situation given its location, population, the threats it faces, etc. I do have a female friend who just joined the IDF, so I’ll ask her about the experience a few months down the road.

    4. Yeah, I’m proud to be a man like that. Doing the right thing is never easy. So, did your platoon or squad handle it with a reprimand given the clear dereliction of duty?

      3% of women in the IDF are in combat roles. And… what exactly about their unique situation invalidates the concept that women can and do serve ably in combat roles?
      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/world/middleeast/looking-to-israel-for-clues-on-women-in-combat.html

      How about Canada’s female combat troops?
      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/world/americas/armed-forces-in-canada-resolved-issue-long-ago.html

    5. It wasn’t in my platoon and it definitely wasn’t in my squad. We were “squared away” for the most part (although there was that time we ran over the devil dog …)

      In regards to the IDF, Israel is a very small nation surrounded by countries that all want to extinguish it from the face of the earth. There are trade offs in everything. In Israel’s case, it may very well be that the extra bodies gleaned by forced conscription far outweigh the loss of life that could occur by lowering standards for “infantrywomen.”

  2. Side note: Have you ever been so cold you thought you would die if you fell asleep? I have. Twice. I was so exhausted and wet and cold I just said to myself, “Well, if I die … it’s been a good ride.” Then I slept in a way that I can only imagine it would feel like if I passed out on the bottom of the ocean.

    My point is, before I was in the Army I would have never imagined I’d “spoon” with another dude. Well, that changes when you get REALLY cold. And people can make all the gay jokes they want, but until they’ve had to sleep out in the elements with a poncho liner for weeks on end … they don’t know what they’re talking about. (My favorite was when I woke up next to a wild boar. I probably smelled so bad he thought I was a buddy … although those things can be fierce.)

    Life in an infantry unit is not like life in the civilian world. It doesn’t work the same way. But one thing that remains constant is that men and women are attracted to one another, and when you put them in close quarters they will … find ways to get distracted.

    Also: 1. Your analogy to people who wanted to keep blacks out of the military is flawed. Racism is learned. Sexual attraction is not.
    2. I have already stated that I’m fine with women in POG units.
    3. Don’t get me started on the Germans. Those were the same guys who sent their “Special Forces” into Afghanistan for years and they didn’t leave the FOB for a single mission. I’m assuming they sat on their ass learning foreign languages by watching movies with the subtitles on…

    Update: This is too good not to check. Our German friends are now growing breasts.

    The Wachbataillon unit performs precision military drills at official ceremonial functions, the German Herald reports. Many of their drills involve smacking their rifles against the left side of the soldiers’ chests. And all that pounding on the same spot has stimulated the production of hormones that cause man boobs to grow.

    Classic. I guess that tends to happen when all you do is drill and ceremony for extended periods of time…

    1. I don’t recall being that cold, and I appreciate your service.

      My analogy wasn’t. People used those same “unit cohesion” arguments when black wanted to serve. I’m not saying you or anyone who agrees with you is racist, only that the military didn’t cave in when blacks, gays, and women began to serve in new roles. The argument wasn’t valid. I’d be willing to bet our forces don’t lose a bit of efficacy when women serve in combat roles.

      While women are considered the “weaker sex,” there are plenty of women who could, if given the chance, perform many duties as well as a man. You don’t have to look hard to find women on YouTube who could easily out-fight, out-lift, outrun, and out-shoot both you and me. Can a few do it all and join SF? I’m curious myself. Maybe, maybe not.

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