Best Defense

Col. Brooks, about women in the Army: I don’t think you know today’s force

By Lt. William R. Cauley, U.S. Army Best Defense guest respondent I am not sure what to say about this particular article. I am a little disgusted to have ever spent my time reading it, but at the same time, I am glad that such backwardness was put on display. I certainly do not blame you ...

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By Lt. William R. Cauley, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest respondent

I am not sure what to say about this particular article. I am a little disgusted to have ever spent my time reading it, but at the same time, I am glad that such backwardness was put on display. I certainly do not blame you for posting this article. Diversity of opinion is good for any debate. All the same, I am just flabbergasted that people still buy into these arguments.

I am an active duty infantry officer in the United States Army. My service comes with the caveat that I have not deployed as of yet, but I am nonetheless knowledgeable as to what it takes be in the infantry. My time at the National Training Center has presented challenges that require both physical and mental stamina. I have climbed up and down mountains in the dead of night, repaired IFV tracks in a flash flood, and been expected to lead soldiers while on the brink of absolute exhaustion. It is far from combat, but it is enough to know whether or not a soldier can succeed in the infantry. I have seen women out here that could keep up with the best of them and men who fell to pieces under the stress. Neither gender had a monopoly on success or failure when faced with harsh and rigorous training. I will not dwell on the tired arguments about physical ability.

This new claim that women are “set up to fail” by pushing them into infantry units is specious at best. The first thing that caught my eye in this argument (aside from the usual diatribes about physical differences) was the assertion that retention would be difficult. I am sure that plenty of women will give the infantry a try and then call it quits. In fact, I know that they will. I know because I have seen plenty of my own soldiers call it quits or say that they wanted to. I know that many more would have said something similar if social pressure had not kept them so seemingly stoic. There are good male soldiers and there are bad ones, and the same can be said of women. Soldiers have good days and they have bad days. In the end, my platoon was an effective unit and more than one of those soldiers changed attitude as time went on. Retention and motivation are already challenges in infantry units, so I do not understand why adding women to the mix will change that in a meaningful way. Ultimately then, the real response to any concern about retention is “So what?”

Another argument often brought forth about women in combat units is that the ratios will be unfavorable and that women will be subject to harassment and sexual violence if surrounded by so many men. I will grant that this is true, for now. Men act that way in all kinds of settings, and they do it because our society has yet to take the time to teach young boys that being a jerk is not cool and that being aggressively solicitous about sex is not right. Maybe one day that will change, the same way theories about the intellectual and moral inferiority of African-Americans began to erode when whites were integrated with them. What is more, if it is to be accepted that men who are sexually deprived will inevitably “give in to their primal urges” (whatever that means), then maybe we should just start locking men up en masse, as they are obviously too dangerous to have out in decent society and too mindless to trust with lethal force.

There is much more that could be said counter to Colonel Brooks’ article, but in the interest of time, I will leave it at these few points. In closing, I will say that the author is right that our country is setting women up to fail. This asinine process of three years of studies and trials will likely all end in the services claiming that they all need exemptions to the integration directive. By all means, the Department of Defense should have passed out a memo one day that read to the effect of “women will now serve in combat roles…deal with it.” The department more or less did this with blacks and with homosexuals. I know that when I was a platoon leader, I would have killed for one motivated woman to replace the handful of less than exceptional men I sometimes had in my charge. Maybe a future PL will get that wish.

1LT William R. Cauley completed duty in January 2015 as a Platoon Leader in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center.  He is now doing his time as a Protocol Officer.  He graduated in 2012 from North Carolina State University with a degree in history. The views expressed above are the opinion of the author and do not in any way express the views of the Department of Defense, the United States Army, or the National Training Center, nor do they imply any endorsement by the same.

John R. Nimmo/U.S. Air Force

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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