Let Women Serve in Combat, But Don’t Lower Standards

The burden is now on the Pentagon to prove no special treatments are applied

MARJA, AFGHANISTAN - SEPTEMBER 23: Army MEDEVAC helicopter crew members with Dustoff Task Force Shadow of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade help Marines carry a severely wounded Marine to a helicopter on September 23, 2010 near Marja, Afghanistan. The Marine later died of his injuries. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last week the Department of Defense lifted all gender restrictions on combat positions, paving the way for women to serve alongside men in all jobs in all branches of the military.

“There will be no exceptions,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters. “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.”

I’m perfectly fine with that—so long as standards aren’t lowered to allow women into these newly available positions in order to fit some political agenda. The current standards are gender-neutral, so that’s a start. The fear isn’t so much that the branches of the military would announce—whether via press release or quietly behind the scenes—that there would be different standards for men and women, but that the gender-neutral standards would remain in place but women would live by a different set of unannounced standards or given special treatment to pass the standards.

I don’t want to believe the military would put men and women in danger by allowing unqualified people to serve important roles for some gender narrative, but after questions were raised about the way women graduated from the Army’s Ranger School, I’m a little skeptical.

The story went like this: Two women graduated from the Ranger School and everyone cheered. “See, women really can do everything men can do,” those from certain quarters swooned.

But soon, some began to question whether the women had passed by the same standards required of men. Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., asked the DoD for information about the women’s training. People’s Susan Keating cited “multiple sources” that said the women received special training and special treatment.

Part of that special treatment allegedly included allowing the women to repeat parts of the program until they passed and surveying one of the toughest courses in the program ahead of time. Men, conversely, weren’t given multiple chances to complete the program and had to see the course for the first time when they attempted to traverse it.

The Army adamantly denies the accusations in Ms. Keating’s article, calling them “pure fiction.” For one thing, the “sources” in her article were all anonymous. Ms. Keating said this was because those involved in the school wouldn’t allow her to interview commanders, instructors and others connected to the school and the women’s graduation.

The story appears to have died, and I’m really hoping the women who graduated—Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest—did so by the same standards as men.

I, personally (and obviously), could never accomplish what those women have.

The thing we have to remember is that opening up all combat positions to women doesn’t necessarily mean a sudden influx of women into those positions. If the standards are kept the same (and followed properly), then we still might not see women in combat roles alongside men.

But women have already proven they can serve in many military roles that put them in danger. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., was a helicopter pilot for the Army, and lost both of her legs after the Black Hawk she was co-piloting was shot down. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, served in a combat zone delivering supplies and defending the military base outside Kuwait City. Rep. Martha McSally was the first woman to fly in combat after the gender ban was lifted in 1991.

Now that gender bans have been lifted, this also opens women up to “the draft.” Since women had previously been unable to hold direct ground combat positions, their participation in the draft was seen as unnecessary. Now that they are able to hold those positions, a Pentagon analysis has found, the “factual backdrop” of the Supreme Court Case that exempted women from the draft has been altered.

Equality indeed. The draft requires men aged 18 to 25 to register in case the practice needs to be implemented. Full disclosure: I am outside of that age range, and feel uncomfortable stating one way or the other if it’s fair to include women now, since it would not apply to me.

It will take quite awhile before we see headlines about this again. The next headlines will most likely be about “the first woman [blank],” because that seems to be a popular narrative for a gender-obsessed media.

It should be noted that not everyone in the military is on board with the DoD’s decision to allow women to serve in combat positions. In early September, the Marine Corps released a study showing all-male units outperforming co-ed units.

The other main concern of some—that men won’t be open to serving alongside women in combat—could easily be put to rest if everyone in the armed services is confident that those who are fighting on the frontlines are there because they passed stringent standards, and are not there to fill some gender quota.

I think that is achievable, but the burden is now on the Pentagon to prove that no quotas or special treatments are being applied.

Let Women Serve in Combat, But Don’t Lower Standards