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Op-Ed: A Social Policy Change That The Pentagon Needs To See Under General Mattis

January 13, 2017

All opinion articles are the opinion of the author and not necessarily of American Military News. If you are interested in submitting an op-ed please email [email protected]

On Wednesday, Fox News reported that the Pentagon would likely head in a different direction under the leadership of Donald Trump and General James Mattis.

Given Trump’s campaign rhetoric about the Obama administration, this should come as a surprise to no one.

While I don’t agree with everything President-elect Trump and his administration plan to do, I certainly think it’s time to bring social experimentation in the military to an end.

According to Fox News, that’s likely to happen under the Trump administration.

“Veterans and military experts told that, while some of Obama’s civil rights advancements may be locked in, neither Trump nor his choice for secretary of defense, Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, are likely to make social experimentation a priority.”

Department of Defense contractor and retired Army Col. Robert Maginnis elaborated on the idea.

“You need to be known as a good soldier or Marine and not by your sexuality, your gender or your particular faith. We need everyone to pull in the same direction and not espouse a particular personal agenda that doesn’t fit into the nation’s best long-term interest.”

Retired Army General Jack Keane also elaborated on the idea, adding that the emphasis on social reform in the Obama military came at the cost of mission accomplishment.

“Social engineering was a distractor from what the main mission of the United States military was about,” Keane said. “We were involved in conflict and war, and these reforms achieved a level of prominence that subordinated the issue of war itself.”

To a large degree, these men seem to be alluding to the issue of women in combat occupational specialties. There are probably other policies on the table that some would like to see repealed with regard to social issues in the military, but women in combat jobs is definitely the big one.

I’ll preface this opinion by saying that I am a pretty big social liberal. Seriously, the comments under some of my articles would have you believing that my last name might actually be “Podesta.”

But I also served as both a weapons and rifle platoon commander in the Marine Corps, with a deployment to Ramadi to show for it. After that, I served as the XO and commander of a POG company which I regularly took out to the field to brush up on grunt tactics. It’s with that experience in mind that I say this: Women do not belong in the infantry.

It’s not a sexism thing, really. I happen to believe that when it comes to the ‘shoot, move, communicate’ facets of infantry life that a good chunk of women could probably hold their own in the very short term – and there’s myriad anecdotal evidence from non-combat units that were ambushed in Iraq and Afghanistan that supports this assertion.

But being a grunt is about more than being able to react appropriately to an ambush.

Broadly speaking, we can look at three areas – although one could likely find more — where having women in combat roles could hurt mission accomplishment and troop welfare. (I use the term combat interchangeably with infantry because it’s where I served, but the same problems would likely arise with tanks, arty, AAVs, etc.)


The first disqualifier is simply the ability to pull weight — dead weight to be specific. We were on our way back from a patrol one afternoon when we were ambushed in the middle of the city. It was pretty quick, but the MRAP I was riding in became completely engulfed in flames. Everyone inside was still conscious, and thus able to climb out and find cover and concealment. But what if I had been unconscious? Without gear on I weigh 200 pounds. Throw in a vest, ammo, etc; and that goes up to between 250 and 300 pounds.

I know a lot of dudes who can’t pull that kind of dead weight.

Consider that, along with the fact that female Infantry Officer candidates have been dropping like flies and it’s reasonable to believe that women could be a liability in an infantry battalion. Again, this isn’t sexism. It’s basic human physiology.

Men are better equipped for physically demanding tasks than women thanks to things like testosterone, lack of estrogen, greater bone density, muscle mass, and the list goes on.

This concern is amplified in austere environments like Afghanistan where op-tempo might cause muscle and bone density loss over the long haul.

Unit Moral

This explanation would likely cause monocles to shatter and jaws to drop among the liberal elite, but the truth is that forcing women into an environment that has been entirely male for over two centuries is just a bad idea. An infantry company is a special place, it’s a place of profanity, socially unacceptable humor, and platonic love. All of that is at risk if grunt battalions are forced to operate in the same manner as the rest of the fleet. And while it seems petty to say that the unit would suffer if those abstract concepts disappeared, it’s fact.

If LCpl Smith and LCpl Johnson are dating, and then break up, and then LCpl Johnson starts dating LCpl Jones, it could create a massive rift in the unit that would poison combat effectiveness in both the short and long term. Likewise, the loss of the other grunt traditions – which often involve things like penis jokes and impromptu ground fighting matches – would also wreak havoc on unit morale and in the long run; combat effectiveness. And anyone who tells me that we can just use ‘good leadership’ to solve such problems has never spent much time around 19-year-old men and women, and has certainly never served in a mixed gender unit.


In the civilian world, when someone goes on maternity leave the rest of the company picks up the slack. In the Marine Corps, bodies are essential to mission accomplishment and the loss of a body due to pregnancy – especially before or during a deployment – means someone else has to carry extra weapons, ammo, gear, etc.

Once again, this isn’t sexist. This is a rational, objective look at the manpower needs of an infantry unit, and when human lives are on the line, meeting those manpower numbers is paramount. Doing a workup for a deployment and then losing a SAW gunner due to pregnancy would be a huge deal, and could strike a massive blow against mission accomplishment. Translated for civilian readers, this means that political correctness can literally get people killed.

It’s hard to say for sure which policies are here to stay and which ones will see the chopping block. While the admission of women into combat roles was hailed as a major victory for the progressive left, it’s been widely panned as an awful idea by a significant chunk of vets and military leadership. Here’s hoping Mad Dog takes a second look at it.

This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.