Having just turned 60 years old, I can hardly keep up with my 2-year-old granddaughter, let alone a 19-year-old woman Marine who just completed a boot camp in many ways just as rigorous as the guys. My 30-something daughters can run circles around me at this point in my life.
Still, old fashioned as it is, I still have a "ladies first" mentality that might just die out with my generation. I hold doors open for women and offer my seat on public transportation to the "weaker sex," maybe not so weak soon now that they’ll be armed and dangerous — and increasingly combat veterans suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.
So being a tired, old man being outrun by women and overrun by cultural change now, I understand that I can’t legitimately have too much argument with the female combat exclusion rule being lifted last week by Secretary of Defense Panetta, at least not from the point of view of my stamina verses that of a young woman in today’s military. My personal stamina or the lack thereof, though, is really not the issue.
The Pentagon studied stamina, strength and agility and whether women could hack combat from those perspectives. Scaling walls wearing body armor and weapons, carrying bulky weights long distances, throwing grenades unlike a girl, lifting heavy loads repeatedly, rapidly ascending flights of stairs loaded down with ammunition and kicking in doors at the top. The fact is the majority of women can’t.
This fact is why the Joint Chiefs were reported as "unanimously" approving the elimination of the combat exclusion rule. They know the impact on combat effectiveness will be miniscule because the numbers of women actually capable of being involved in infantry and special ops missions will be negligible.
So removing the combat exclusion rule was just a subterfuge on gender equality. Between those gals who actually will want to sign up for close combat military occupational specialties and those who can actually hack it in those specialties, the number of women will be so insignificant as to amount to, well, simply window dressing. The Obama Administration will be able to hold up those token women who both volunteer but also can hack it and say, "See! We’re equal!"
Just like the Israeli and German infantrypersons who, as urban legend has it, are hardened, combat-trained, machine-gun toting warriorettes called upon equally with their male counterparts to participate in combat — and do so successfully. The reality, though, is far different from the legend. If bulky German Hilda Schweinhund can’t really hack it, should we expect our 5-foot-2, eyes of blue, Suzie-Q to?
So stamina and strength limitations will naturally take care of themselves. But there are other concerns that I’m certain were not studied before the combat exclusion rule was eliminated. And these are issues we should be equally, if not more, worried about in mixing men and women in combat.
Like the call of nature. For guys, the world is their urinal. I don’t know how women will handle that one in combat.
And timing. Combat operations are planned in minute detail often down to seconds meaning the difference between life and death. I wonder if Panetta’s studies included the fact that "five minutes" is defined by women to actually mean a half hour.
Which brings us to language. The word "thingy" will be banned from the female infantry soldiers’ lexicon by Department of Defense Order 3824.36. Gals won’t be able to use that word to mean "anything mechanical" any more. Guys use that word only when describing a bra clasp. That’s out.
Same with the word "vulnerable." Women use that word all the time when they describe "opening themselves up" emotionally to another.
First of all, this word will be banned because infantry soldiers should never think of themselves as being vulnerable for any reason. Nor should they be "opening themselves up" for that matter. It’s the enemy that’s vulnerable. And it’s only the enemy that is opened up to be assaulted and utterly destroyed. Period.
Secondly, guys never use the word vulnerable. Unless it’s referring to playing sports without a protective cup.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.