Vail Daily column: Can women be physical, lethal fighters on the battlefield? |

Vail Daily column: Can women be physical, lethal fighters on the battlefield?

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

Two years ago, the administration directed the Defense Department to rescind the Direct Combat Exclusion Rule, thus forcing the armed forces to integrate women into previously restricted occupations and units.

In response to the administration’s edict, the U.S. Marine Corps formed the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force to conduct integrated, gender-neutral training to evaluate the physical performance of Marines participating in tasks associated with ground combat.

The Marine Corps was the first armed service of any nation’s military to conduct such research, which was specifically designed to test the mettle of women vis-a-vis the unique physical requirements and associated performance standards required of ground combat units. The standards the Marines reviewed and validated were all gender neutral, occupation specific and operationally relevant.

All volunteers, both male and female, were first sent through military occupational specialty schools and upon completion they trained for four months performing the fundamental tasks required of all combat arms units such as movement under load, accuracy in a live-fire attack, combat vehicle maintenance and employment of weapon systems and combat vehicles.

After four months they deployed to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center to perform a three-month assessment in a simulated field environment. From there, all infantry and engineer volunteers went to the Mountain Warfare Training Center to perform further assessments in different austere conditions.

The Marines took painstaking steps to obtain objective measurements — measurements not subject to human biases to evaluate unit performance in order to appropriately inform decision makers based on facts. It should also be noted that Marines selected their finest female enlisted personnel and most mature female officers for this exercise.

The Marine Corps made every effort to ensure success of this exercise. Because the Marines are the smallest of our four service branches they have limited manpower; said differently, they have no choice but train everyone to the best of their abilities. In a nutshell, this was a stacked unit with every expectation it would succeed.

The specific results have not yet been released for general consumption, but the study concluded overwhelmingly that all-male units significantly outperformed the integrated units in the majority of cases.

As a group, the best women participating in infantry operations graded out at equal or below the lowest 5 percent of the men. They were slower in almost every technical and tactical aspect and physically weaker in every aspect across the range of military operations.

Now before my liberated sisters rise up in arms over any perceived affront, let me state unequivocally that I would have welcomed serving alongside females in Vietnam. I was a helicopter pilot and my primary job was flying med-evac and search and rescue missions during my tour “in country,” and I have no doubt women would have been every bit as effective the other pilots in our then all-male squadron.

There are dozens of military occupational specialties that should be open to women, but as the task force exercise illustrated, there are certain military occupations that should not be gender-integrated because of sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism is the condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the obvious differences in their sexual organs themselves.

This condition occurs in many animals, insects, birds and some plants. It is because of these differences that a woman will never play quarterback in the NFL, bat cleanup for the New York Yankees or play center iceman for the Chicago Black Hawks.

The secretary of the Navy, doing the administration’s bidding, made up his mind even before the release of the results stating clearly the testing would not alter his thinking on the matter. It appears the administration injected its own agenda into the debate by choosing political correctness and social experimentation in lieu of putting the most effective fighting force on the battlefield.

Some counter that two women completed the Army’s Ranger School a few months ago (although there was more to that story than was reported by the media). But regardless of any accommodations, kudos to those very dedicated women. At the same time however, to date, no woman has ever successfully completed the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Combat Endurance Test — a test all Marine infantry officers must pass before being assigned to a ground combat unit.

The choice is clear, political correctness or putting the fastest, most fit, most physical and most lethal fighters on the battlefield. So ask your self, if your life depended on it, which would you choose?

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, can be reached at

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