Thursday, January 24, 2013

Women Okayed For Combat Duty... But Is That Okay?


I have very mixed feelings about women being allowed into ground combat.  I'll admit that I'm from a generation that would consider such a move to be the antithesis of what a military should be.  Neither men nor women are "made" for combat, but I question the wisdom of placing women in certain combat situations where sheer physical strength may be the difference between living and dying.

One woman writer has this opinion:

But mostly it just annoyed me. Honestly, I don’t know a single woman who would want to serve in combat. But the exclusion, and its defenders, were so paternalistic that its existence was a sign of how conservative and reactionary we can be as a nation (not politically, just that whole “change” thing). The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hasn’t been simple, but it has been relatively easy. The earth did not fall.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday he will remove the ban on women in combat. There will be difficulties with these changes, I have no doubt. And it was clearly the litigation by women who have served, have won purple hearts, and who have been denied opportunities (and who also represented the more than 150 women who have died being in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in all but formal legal designation) that finally moved the Pentagon. As I note in this column, this administration was not likely to be too fond of defending the rules.
But starting from a position where women are included, and the details are worked out, is a far better place for this nation and our security.  [source]
First of all, what were the "more than 150 women who have died being in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan in all but formal legal designation" actually doing in those situations.  Were they at a forward base that was attacked?  Were they on medic teams?  Were they simply at the wrong place at the wrong time?  If they were not "formally" part of the combat, were they unfortunate bystanders?

Combat can mean a variety of things.  Flying drones may be considered combat.  Flying planes may be part of combat [and women do fly fighter jets already].  Driving an armored vehicle into combat is certainly something either sex is capable of doing.  So are there limits?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps in modern warfare with modern technology, even the most strenuous combat activity is within the realm of reason.

But one thing should not be compromised: physical training requirement should be absolutely the same for men and women who will be sent into combat units.  No special consideration should be given to women so that they can pass the physical training tests.  That means no lowering of the requirements for all soldiers to accommodate women.  There will be no special consideration given on the field of combat and male combatants should not be placed in a situation where they have to fight an opponent while trying to protect a less-capable woman along side them.

Not every soldier can do this.

Women are subject to greater risk for certain types of back and leg injuries than men because of the geometry of the skeletons.  But if women are serious about strength and conditioning, they can overcome most of that risk.  The real question remains: is it in the best interests of the military to include women in certain types of ground combat missions?
Human Protection and Performance Division 

Defence Science and Technology Organisation
*Defence Health Service Division, Defence Personnel Executive 
We investigated the physical and occupational capabilities of male and females soldiers before and after 12 weeks of specialised physical training. The Combat Fitness Assessment (CFA) was employed to assess the infantry-related occupational capabilities, which consisted of a 15-km march at 5.5 km/h followed by the Run-Dodge-Jump (RDJ) activity. All soldiers (35 males and 28 females) carried 34.6 kg, which was based on the requirements for a 3-day operation. Physiological assessments of muscular strength and endurance, and aerobic and anaerobic capacities were also performed. All males could complete the RDJ in a rested state, prior to the march, whereas the majority of females (57%) could not complete the RDJ with weapon and webbing. The majority of males (91%) completed the 15-km in 165 min, whereas fewer females could complete the march successfully (36%). All infantry soldiers and the majority of combat-corps soldiers (79%) could complete the post-march RDJ in less than 70 sec, whereas the fastest female required 73 sec to complete the course. The specialised physical training improved strength and aerobic capacity for the female group and strength only for the male group, although the female scores remained below those of the males. These improvements did not translate into improved success in the infantry-based CFA task, i.e. no female could pass the 70-sec RDJ barrier. Post-specialised physical training one female completed the post-march RDJ in 73 sec, while another Control female achieved an RDJ time of 65 sec after the physical training period. Therefore, assuming that this small sub-group of female soldiers are representative of the whole Army, it is likely that a small number of female soldiers are physically able to complete this assessment within the same performance limits as current infantry soldiers. The elevated environmental heat stress encountered during the post specialised physical training CFA potentially masked any possible benefit gained from the physical training program. Combined with the dramatic drop in soldier numbers it is difficult to provide definitive conclusions as to the effectiveness of the specialised physical training program. CFA administration should be planned for the cooler less humid months to diminish the likelihood of thermal injuries. If the CFA is conducted in hotter and more humid conditions, longer completion times (allowing rest periods), reduced distance and lighter loads should be considered. [source]

In other words, we need to reduce combat capability so that women can be declared combat capable.  And heat was a problem.  Well, heat can be a real problem in Afghanistan.  

Perhaps some common sense will prevail.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)