The Infantry, Olympics and Women?

Posted on: February 19th, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 19 Comments
Photo by Josh Haner NYT

The winter Olympics don’t particularly inspire me to think of similarities to the Infantry.  Sure the desire to win is there, there is the shooting in the biathlon and plenty of sports requiring high levels of physical fitness and endurance.  We really don’t train many troops to ski these days unlike WWII where we had the 10th Mountain Division and the Special Service Force who were expert ski troops. 

What got me thinking about the infantry, the Olympics and women was a New York Times article showcasing the lopsided numbers of injuries women have suffered on the “Extreme Park” events where the courses are the same for the sexes.   That’s unlike sports like women’s luge that starts lower on the track, or the smaller hill used for the women’s ski jump or men’s downhill where the course is longer and more difficult. 

The Extreme Park events though offer no differences between the sexes.  The halfpipe is 22’ tall.  The slopetsyle course features the same obstacles and jumps.  The ski/snowboard cross course features multiple racers on the exact same course and the aerials are done on the same sized jumps.   Where the Extreme Park differs from the other courses is in injuries.  As of Monday, 22 accidents have injured athletes to the point they could compete no further or had to be carried off the course in a stretcher.  16 of those injured or 73% have been women.  That’s in spite of the fact that there are less women competing in these events compared to the men.  44% of the 466 competitors are women.   Just to be clear less than half of the competitors make up three quarters of the casualties.

Last year Secretary of Defense Panetta decided to remove the combat exclusion policy and open up all combat specialties to women by 1 Jan 2016.  Short branch justifications all combat specialties will be open to women.  The Marines are conducting highly public experiments to develop a data base upon which to determine a course of action.  The Army’s approach has been much more secretive. 

One argument against women in the Infantry has centered on women’s physical abilities being lower than men.  Those that disagree make the case that women can train to overcome these shortcomings.  The reality is that there is a limit to how strong you can make any person.  Gender differences even for Olympic athletes leave women with less muscle mass, less strength and less aerobic capacity.  That’s why men are doing triple flips in slopestyle and women aren’t doing doubles.   

Part of the physical performance problem is the higher rate of injuries women suffer.   We are learning again that women suffer more injuries in basic training and are especially prone to stress fractures compared to men.    A 2011 Army paper by COL Barbara Springer, PhD and MAJ Amy Ross, MD “Musculoskeletal Injuries in Military Women,” cites multiple Army, VA and Navy data, including a Navy study where  1 in 367 women recruits suffered a pelvic stress fracture, versus one in 40,000 male recruits. The Army noted its experience with these types of injuries is almost three times as heavy. 

Then there’s the Army May 2013 Technical Bulletin, “Prevention and Control of Musculoskeletal Injuries”.  It stated women are almost 67% more likely than a male soldier to be disabled and discharged for a musculoskeletal disorder.  

The Olympics are a cautionary tale applicable to putting women in the infantry.  Some will take the position that if a woman wants to risk it it’s her health at risk.  The problem with that thinking is that in combat those evacuating the wounded are typically getting shot at.  Not to mention doctrinally it takes two soldiers to evacuate a wounded one (it often takes three or more in difficult terrain or where there are no secure lines).   Including those in the force that statistically suffer more injuries creates more situations for the healthy to be wounded rescuing their comrades and depletes combat power by requiring more troops to evacuate the wounded.

The Sochi Olympics are worth remembering as we study and integrate women in the Infantry.  They provide unique lessons with subjects of Olympic quality physical fitness and an opportunity to directly compare performance.   To ignore it would be akin to waiting for the oncoming avalanche to bury you.  

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • Sir Drinksalot

    Honestly, I have no issues with women being in the infantry, or any other frontline unit, as long as they are able to fulfil the physical fitness requirements that the male candidates do, without lowering the standards to get a free pass.

  • MR151

    Sir Drinksalot But what if the PC pinhead nitwit bureaucrat powers-that-be shoehorn the women in regardless of whether they’re physically up to par? Many Pentagon career bureaucrat ptb are determined to do just that by 2015.
    That’s been the subject(besides Benghazi) very much in discussion on SOFREP for the past year.

  • Sir Drinksalot 
    “as
    long as they are able to fulfil the physical fitness requirements that
    the male candidates do, without lowering the standards to get a free
    pass.”
    You know that’s a quite reasonable, fair sounding and often repeated position.  It runs no risk of upsetting anyone and is why those that rae promoting the integration of women into the Infantry often use it.  They know most have no idea that we have NEVER required the same standards for women as we do men and employ a number of subterfuges to make it seem like we do.  E.G. different scoring scales by gender that create the illusion that a score of ____ is the same for men and women.  That’s how women can run 20% slower than men and do 40% less pushups but still score the same.

    The other “bait and switch” is an “evaluation” of performance standards before integrating women into a course and then lowering or eliminating requirements for all.

    In the end sounding “fair” just reinforces ignorance of the past and a naivete of what the future will bring but hey, no one’s feelings get hurt and the feminists are happy.

  • Sir Drinksalot

    majrod Sir Drinksalot
    Hmmm interesting, I never knew that there were already “hidden” differences in standards between men and women already in place, long before this whole campaign started.

    I was always under the impression that there was just one standard that all recruits, male or female have to pass in order to complete selection and training, until recently.

    If there were already female standards in place that are different from men’s, then why make such a fuss about it and lower the men’s standards in order to shoehorn females in who were never being tested equally as men in the first place ? Just seems like another PC campaign of “equality” at the expense of “quality”.

  • Sir Drinksalot majrod  
    “I
    was always under the impression that there was just one standard that
    all recruits, male or female have to pass in order to complete selection
    and training, until recently.”
    Don’t feel bad. You are one of many victims of today’s media indoctrination vs. education.

  • Sir Drinksalot

    majrod Sir Drinksalot Guilty as charged lol

  • clluelo

    And yet people still look to the Olys to claim that women are just as physically capable as men. I predicts the slopestyle and half pipe courses will change soon . Can’t have that disparity noticed by all, it won’t allow the PC equality crowd advance their agenda.

  • Michael_mike

    Sir Drinksalot

    I have nothing against women per say, but to say that they are equals? Definitely not. Apparently they are good at marksmanship, but I don’t think that they have what it takes to break records, but I don’t know much because I never went in the army.On the other hand I feel very concerned of the day when those feminist will get higher in ranks, because it’s so PC to have an army of feminist. I am not a soldier but by looking at the legal system here it’s not too hard to imagine that women will end up treated like princess, because they are so special. And then the day those princess are not happy with someone one of those higher ranked feminist will have so sympathy that I am feeling sick.

    Man, I hope that it’s fiction. 😉

  • Sir Drinksalot

    Oh I just came across this today :

    http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140225/NEWS/302250023

    So this woman joins the military. And gives these reasons for not saluting the flag :
    “america enslaved my people for over 400 years, denied them civil rights in the
    50s and 60s —– dumped cocaine into their neighborhoods in the 80s. enacted
    the federal anti violence act in the 90s and now you bastards claim to be
    humanitarians in the 2000s? fuck america—– and fuck that flag! this entire
    nation is predicated upon theft (cherokee indians) kidnaping (trans atlantic
    slave trade) and hypocrisy (swear the president in on the bible yet you promote
    homosexuality)
    #DeathToAmerica ” – taken from her twitter.

    Yet she shows herself to be the biggest Hypocrite by enlisting for a service where there is a chance of her one day paying the ultimate sacrifice for the nation who’s flag she refuses to salute. And she has received massive support for it. 

    So if this is the state of the US military right now, sorry to say but I fear for the future of USA.

  • Sir Drinksalot
    There’s been a rash of stupidity lately.  I don’t want to conflate this soldier with the women in the Infantry issue.  Makes it too easy for those with an agenda to introduce extraneous issues and motivations to those that oppose women in the Infantry.

    Check out the link in the story you posted though…  http://www.militarytimes.com/article/20140227/NEWS/302270034

    There’s no doubt she was avoiding rendering honors to the flag at retreat and publicizing it.  She deserves whatever she gets but I’m not sure about the race issues being introduced by the tweets are attributable to her.

  • drummergirl

    I like the comparison majrod…I like how you continue to cover this issue since it is so important.  feminism in general has weakened our men, our country, manhood in general, the family, the concept of justice and good judgment….if they continue to move forward unstopped, civilization will continue to spiral downwards.  To have as the pillar of your belief that men are not necessary is a belief system of the death of the civilized world, of innovation, of technology, of roads, bridges, electricity, safety, etc. etc.  Men have created this world and we as women can either work alongside them as helpers or try and lead and dominate and end up falling off a cliff and bringing everyone else with us….feminist doctrine is a toxic poison…..

  • Luddite4Change

    The fix is already in.
    Less than a week after the Army makes a bid deal about the MOS physical task evaluation being conducted at Ft. Stewart, the SECARMY opens all field artillery officer jobs

  • ColonelProp

    That was an incredibly good use of open date Maj…
    Thanks

  • Luddite4Change The MOS physical task test is window dressing…
    I can understand opening artillery officer positions though I don’t approve.  Artillery officers aren’t behind the guns loading the artillery pieces though it means something to the troops for the officers to be just as capable.
    The PT standards being different and their performance during unit PT will stand out but I’m sure savvy commanders will slow down unit runs.

    I want to see how the female forward observers in the light infantry divisions do with all the load of the infantry AND the additional commo gear, target designators and batteries (or will the men be carrying the gear…)

  • Luddite4Change

    majrod Luddite4Change Concur.

  • Luddite4Change

    Will,

     Same the below article yesterday.

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/west-point-works-boost-female-cadet-numbers

    Big question, since you are a USMA guy and worked there; Does the opening of combat arms jobs to women mean that they will now have to branch according to same Combat Arms/Supporting Arms ratio as male cadets?  I think the males are required by law to go 80/20 to combat arms while women (in the past), got a pass on this requirement.

  • Luddite4Change  
    For some reason I’m not seeing your post here but recieved an e-mail.  I think it’s important so I’ll repeat it.  You said:
    Will,
     Same the below article yesterday.
    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/west-point-works-boost-female-cadet-numbers
    Big question, since you are a USMA guy and worked there; Does the
    opening of combat arms jobs to women mean that they will now have to
    branch according to same Combat Arms/Supporting Arms ratio as male
    cadets?  I think the males are required by law to go 80/20 to combat
    arms while women (in the past), got a pass on this requirement.
    I don’t “know” the answer.  I bet like most things that won’t be admitted the women will be held to a different standard.
    That AP article is a bunch of liberal media pabalum.  I address the inaccuracies, mistatements and obfuscations in my response to the article over at military.com. http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/04/28/west-point-works-to-boost-female-cadet-numbers.html

  • Riceball

    I realize I’m a bit late to this conversation but I just read today that the Marine Corps is opening up a number of MOSs in the 03 (infantry) field to women, interestingly enough the one MOS still closed is 0311 or rifleman.