A Few Good Women

In August, two women graduated from the Army’s storied Ranger School. They demonstrated that physical strength, mental toughness, and leadership are not gender specific. They are found in exceptional men and women.

Ranger School is considered the Army’s premier small unit leadership school. Only 3% of the Army has earned the Ranger Tab. Individual performance and an individual’s contribution as a member of a team are the sole considerations. Average men and women do not earn the Ranger tab; the men and women who graduate Ranger school are exceptional soldiers.

Shortly there after, the Navy announced that its SEAL program would be open to women. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert said, “Why shouldn’t anyone who can meet the standard be accepted?”

This is the key to successful integration — setting physical and mental standards based on job requirements, and physical and mental capability, not gender. Most of the opposition to allowing women in combat arms branches focus on doubts about women possessing the requisite strength and stamina and/or whether the presence of women dilutes unit cohesion. Unit cohesion arguments have been roundly debunked by the ongoing integration of populations into the military, most recently gays and lesbians. As for physical readiness, the success of women Army Rangers debunked those concerns.

Nevertheless, two weeks ago, in the wake of Ranger graduation, the Marine Corps hastily released its own study of women in infantry roles, concluding that all-male combat units performed better than mixed units.

This study has multiple flaws, which include inadequate screening and training of the women; failure to control for variability in experience of participating; and evaluating groups rather than individuals. The Marine Corps Times also hinted at cultural difficulties growing out of the USMC’s unique practice of training recruits separately by gender.

The Marines have never been about average. They have always been about exceptional—the few, the proud. Yet, they base their conclusions of the effectiveness of all male units based on the average performance of Marines grouped by gender, rather than evaluating individuals to meet a single standard.

For too long, the Marine Corps has demanded and expected too little from women Marines. The Marine Corps needs to learn from the other services. Set high, job-based standards and demand that women meet them as well as men. Screen for highly qualified women for Infantry roles, rather than setting a low baseline. Hold leaders accountable to train to, and demand these high standards.

With gender-neutral occupational standards established, the best-qualified Marines operating in the right positions will not only maximize their individual potential, but optimize the total fighting force in defense of our great Nation.

Read the full article in the Huffington Post.

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