There Are Ways To Defy An Order Short of Disobeying It

For example, conduct honest and dispassionate tests.
Faced with a January 2016 deadline for introducing women to combat units, the U.S. Marines have discovered that for every man who fails a simulated artillery lift-and-carry test, 28 women fail.

And for a test simulating moving over a seven-foot high wall, less than 1.2 percent of the men could not get over, compared to 21.32 percent of women.

The results were found in Marine Corps documentation by the Center for Military Readiness, which issued a report called “U.S. Marine Corps Research Findings: Where is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?”

According to CMR, a non-profit think tank, the Obama administration expects the Marine Corps to find a way to assign women to ground combat units without lowering standards.

“In the independent view of CMR, quantitative research done so far indicates that these expectations cannot be met,” the group said....

In a pull-up test, women averaged 3.59 while men averaged 15.69 – more than four times as many.

A “clean and press” event involved single lifts of 70, 80, 95 and 115 pounds plus six repetitions of a 65 pound lift.

Eighty percent of the men passed the 115 pound test but only 8.7 percent of the women.

In the 120 mm tank loading simulation, participants were asked to lift a simulated round weighing 55 pounds five times in 35 seconds or less. Men failed at a less than 1 percent rate while women failed at a rate of 18.68 percent.

The Marines said nearly one in five women “could not complete the tank loading drill in the allotted time.”

“It would be very likely that failure rates would increase in a more confined space [such as a tank].”

The artillery lift and carry had volunteers pick up a 95 pound artillery round and carry it 50 meters in under two minutes. Again, less than 1 percent of the men failed but 28.2 percent of women.

The obstacle involved a seven-foot wall with a 20-inch box, simulating a fellow soldier’s helping hand. Less than 1.2 percent of the men failed and 21.3 percent of the women.

CMR’s report said while the tests don’t replicate combat, “they do constitute empirical data based on reality, not theories about gender equality.”
We've all been following these USMC efforts, and I don't think there's anything to suggest they've been stacked against the women who have volunteered. Anyone disagree?


Tom said...

I'm surprised at the difference. I knew there would be one, but I didn't expect it to be that great.

Grim said...

I'm surprised it's that small, to be honest. But these are self-selected women, who have already succeeded in training to be Marines and who further volunteered to be put to the test as examples of female strength for this purpose -- in other words, the absolute elite of women in this arena.

Cass said...

Women can do a lot of things people don't think we can do if they train correctly and for a long enough time. I have routinely moved very large pieces of furniture that no one thought a single person (let alone a woman) could lift.

I am a small woman, but when young I could do pullups and pass the Marine PFT (the men's, not the women's standard). Not "max" it, mind you. Just pass it.

The first time I tried, I hadn't prepared at all and I had two small children. I hadn't even been running. At all. But I was 22 - I wouldn't have been able to do that several days in a row.

Upper body strength for women takes time and the right exercises. When we had our first, I was unable to carry him in a backpack until I started doing Army presses at the local gym. Women don't build muscle mass like men do, but I'm naturally quite strong. Yet I had no strength in my shoulders and my upper body is still weak.

The problem is that it takes so much more effort for women to meet the male standard (at least the upper body one) that you're creating something of a hothouse flower fitness level. Sure, given adequate time and the right equipment/exercises, more women *could* meet the standard. Women don't usually train their upper bodies as hard as their legs and abs, so part of it is just not having a base to work with.

But in theater, they won't necessarily have access to those things. And then there are the other problems unique to women (stress fractures, female issues, etc.).

Honestly, most men don't keep their fitness level up over their entire career, and it's easier for men. That's what people don't think about: they want the military to expend all this effort to get women up to a standard that will take tremendous effort from them to maintain if they're successful.

It's simply not an efficient use of resources (money, or time).

MikeD said...

Especially in a massively downsizing force. There quite simply is no compelling need for this, save for the diversity champions. The military should never be a social experiment in the first place, and anything that lowers readiness/combat effectiveness of the force should be the first thing to go. Instead, they're more concerned about "fairness" in some lala land where just as many women as men want to be in combat arms and are capable of meeting the same standards. At least for now, they've paid lip service to not lowering those standards, but if you don't believe they'll soon be howling about sexist standards and glass ceilings I've got a bridge to sell you.

Cass said...

Well said, Mike.

J Melcher said...

Isn't there some sort of academic theoretical (therefore appealing to the liberal mind) claim about comparative advantage? If there exists a disparity between X and Y in production of goods A and B, each should do what they do best, and TRADE. This is true even in cases where X (or Y) is absolutely better than Y (or X) at both A *and* B.

So, of all productive physical tasks tested, what are humans of class X best at, and how can a trade be arranged? I'm thinking tasks such as carrying one end of a 100 kg load on a stretcher, lifting 25 liter soup kettles, picking out subtle distinctions of color and shape through binoculars at a range of 2 kilometers... ?

Grim said...

Isn't there some sort of academic theoretical (therefore appealing to the liberal mind) claim about comparative advantage?

Maybe a generation ago! Now the academic theory is focused on "disparate impact," whereby anything that looks like a comparative advantage is interpreted as being the result of some unfair practice. "Discrimination" is the term in those cases where anything can be proved; "unearned privilege" where no actual bad action can be proven.

E Hines said...

I've never been averse to those who can meet standard (assuming Mike's wrong about the standard; I live in an ideal world, sometimes) and are capable of operating the equipment and sending accurate fire down range, killing enemies, not just should be eligible to do so, but expected to do so. Regardless of gender. After all, the only purpose of an army is the destruction of the enemy's army and domestic war fighting support functions with as little friendly damage as can be achieved while doing that. Full stop.

What the report indicates is that some women can do that.

There's also anecdotal evidence that, depending on the enemy, women in combat can be a force multiplier or counterproductive. The ISIS terrorists, for instance, may be reluctant to fight Kurd units containing/made up of women--the terrorists won't go to heaven if they kill a woman. On the other hand, apparently, in the '67 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian units fought more stubbornly against Israeli units with women in them, resulting in higher Israeli casualties--the Egyptians didn't want the humiliation of losing a fight to a woman.

The only other thing that colors my attitude toward women in combat is a study mentioned a couple years ago in the Hall (and never replicated as far as I've seen, so it's a single datum) that indicated that the medical life cycle costs of women in combat weren't worth the gains.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

The tests indicate that far fewer women than men can meet the physical requirements of combat. But, as Eric points out, some of the women do meet those requirements. Yet the report seems to conclude that the study is evidence that women should not be in combat units, period. What am I missing?

Grim said...


Chiefly two things.

1) Cassandra's point is correct. These results are far higher than I'd have expected because these women are the very elite, and have trained to what she is calling a "hot-house" level. This isn't sustainable: the failure rate of 28 times the rate of men (who probably haven't trained nearly so hard before the test, since they aren't the ones being held up as exemplars of their whole sex) will become markedly worse over the course of their careers. The ones who can do it after intensely training for it since a year ago won't necessarily still be able to do it six months into their deployment a year from now. You won't find out which ones until they fail under fire, leaving their unit down a critical member.

2) The cost of training a Marine for a combat task, in the era of declining budgets, means that it doesn't make sense to put someone into a school who likely won't be able to perform in the role. This isn't about giving people a chance; it's about making sure there's someone who can put steel on target when it's necessary.

Add in Mr. Hines' subsequent point about injury rates -- not covered here, but consistently much higher for women -- and it really makes no sense to have women in the combat arms. I'm not convinced it makes sense to have women in the military except in specific roles where they add extraordinary value. Because I'm aware of some of those roles, I've long defended the concept in debates with Cassandra, who is even more skeptical of women-in-the-military than I am. But this should be proof positive that women don't belong in the combat arms.

Elise said...

I understand your points but have the usual problem with them: description becoming prescription. Most women cannot perform physically and will not hold up in combat; therefore no women - even the ones who could do both - should be in combat. I realize it may be difficult to identify which women could do both but it shouldn't be impossible. And if ongoing testing is necessary to insure women remain in shape, that seems reasonable to me.

I also have a huge problem with this:

I'm not convinced it makes sense to have women in the military except in specific roles where they add extraordinary value.


Grim said...

Cass is a good resource here, because she's written about it a lot more than I have: I've mostly taken the role of defending women's role in her comment section. But there are huge issues associated with increased injury rates, women failing to appear when called to duty during warfare (the Marine Corps' Gulf War experience was that more than a quarter of female Marines who were otherwise deployable became pregnant during the time they were to be called to duty), and, of course, this.

It's become a huge flashpoint, and we aren't running a military to educate through flashpoints. We're running it to kill our enemies and protect the space in the world in which we live. There are areas where women have unique capabilities, especially when we're operating in the Islamic world. I've served with some wonderful female servicemembers, who have my utmost respect. But although I've argued against Cassandra's position over the years, I'm not blind to the basic wisdom of her argument about cost and benefits. The cost is extraordinarily high, and the benefits are limited outside those few areas.

MikeD said...


My objection to women serving in combat stems for a few points. One, because there's no need for it. Quite literally, there is no shortage of manpower (no pun intended for once) in combat arms. The Israelis recruited women into combat arms for the simple fact that they were in an existential struggle and quite literally could use anyone who could aim a weapon. I have no problems with women in combat if it is necessity driving it. That is not the case currently.

Two, the cost. Quite literally, this report shows that women who attempted these tests were between 10-28 times more likely to fail than a man. And this means that (assuming an equal number of women apply as men) you will need between 10-28 times as many applicants to get the same number of qualified recruits. And it's not like we've got a spare 15 combat arms schools lying around in a downsizing military. Hell, we don't have ONE spare school. For the Army, you've got the Infantry School at Benning, the Armor School (now also at Benning since they moved it from Knox) and the US Army Artillery School at Fort Sill. There's not more. And if you think they can just test and train 10-28 times more applicants with the current staff and facilities, you're flat out crazy. You're talking about a massive expansion and increased costs for minimal gain.

Three, because young men and women are not robots. Fraternization WILL occur within a unit. It is inevitable. And you can officially discourage it all you want, but fit young men and women DO happen to find other young fit men and women attractive. I should know, I was one once. And the heart wants what the heart wants. Leaving OUT unwanted advances (and that's assuming a level of discipline that does not exist anywhere) and assuming everyone obeys rules about not dating superiors (which again, fails the reality test already), or folks being stationed overseas for a year who OUGHT to remain faithful to spouses back at home... leaving ALL that aside and assuming all relationships between soldiers in a given unit are peer to peer and completely consensual, what happens when Joe and Molly break up? Assuming they're in the same squad, that's going to be MASSIVELY harmful to unit cohesion. And I am not saying this flippantly. Think about any bad breakup you've had or seen, and apply that to a case where not only can you not get away from your ex, but your life depends on your ex and vice versa. And again, it WILL happen. You can issue General Orders all you like, and it WILL happen in spite of them. It already does in non-combat units, but there at least (for the vast majority) your life does not depend on your ex, nor will your soured relationship have the potential to get others killed.

And finally, I object because when you have vast numbers (again, assuming you find that many women who actually WANT to go into combat arms) who fail to meet the combat arms physical standards, you cannot convince me that some Congressional busybody or Administration official won't complain about sexism and force the military to change those standards so more equal numbers of women pass as well as men. Whether it comes as a different standard for women (in pullups for example) or if it comes as completely different metrics (we'll drop pullups completely and change it into situps, when women can more closely compete with men).

Elise said...

Thanks, Mike, for taking the time to explain all this. It sounds like this is a straight cost/benefit analysis where you are looking at costs versus benefits in achieving an effective military; while those who advocate women in combat are looking at costs versus benefits in achieving absolute equality and enabling those few women who want to be in combat (and can manage it physically) to do so.

Your cost/benefit analysis makes sense to me: I don't want to pay more taxes, prefer as effective a military as possible, and am not flat out crazy. A few years ago I would probably have argued that the goals of equality and goal fulfillment were worth whatever they cost but I don't quite seem able to do that any longer. (Please don't rat me out to The Sisterhood.)

Elise said...


I don't think the military should be about beating back sexual assault. I don't really understand the issue of high injury rates outside of combat units.

As for being unable to deploy due to pregnancy, my initial reaction is to make pregnancy grounds for immediate discharge. However, while that might be workable for a woman who enlists for a few years, it's not really feasible for women who want to make the military their career. I don't know enough about how military assignments work to know if it is reasonable to expect that a career military woman should reasonably be able to be unable to deploy for, say, six months from time to time.

I wonder if some of the wrangling over this has to do with a couple of things:

1) The military seems huge, at least to those of us not in it. It feels like there should be some administrative duties where a pregnant woman could be useful for a few months. (I do understand, though, that to some extent the military needs pop-out/pop-in parts, where anyone can go where needed when needed.)

2) The difference between a military engaged in a massive, world-wide struggle and a military engaged in smaller, more contained conflicts. It doesn't look to someone like me as if everyone in the military needs to be able to fight or even needs to be able to be shipped to God-forsaken nowhere on a moment's notice.

Grim said...

Well, another thing you may not be following closely is the huge debate ongoing right now about the future force structure and posture. The current SECDEF was brought in in large part to downsize the military and reduce its size and power for the decades to come, both because of the President's preference for a less expeditionary America (a preference he would like to pass on to future presidents, handcuffing them before-the-fact as it were), and because of the retirement of the Baby Boom generation (which, given the third-rail status of Social Security and Medicare alone, is going to eliminate much of military budgets for future decades).

The force is already greatly reduced over the size it was when Reagan was president. It's going to shrink a lot more as the next decades pass. If it's going to be effective in its slimmed-down role -- the debate is such that some have openly suggested the elimination of the Air Force -- we have to make some serious decisions about cost-saving measures.

So that's another question for 'wranglers,' one about which there is an almost endless amount to read. No service is avoiding existential questions right now about what role it ought to play, or whether it can sustain a budget adequate to the most basic functions required for that role should it persuade Congress to accept the role's importance.

So when Mike talks about cost/benefit analyses, or when Cassandra does, they're talking a kind of sense that we can't avoid. I have defended women's roles for a long time chiefly because of the women I knew over there: because it was important to them, that is, and because they were my comrades.

Elise said...

I was not aware of that, Grim.

the women I knew over there: because it was important to them, that is, and because they were my comrades.

I think it's worth remembering that there are women to whom enlisting in the military to serve their country is every bit as important as it is to some men; and who are physically and mentally well-qualified to do so. If we keep them all out, we may well miss out on our own Artemisia or another Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.

E Hines said...

...the issue of high injury rates outside of combat units.

Consider USAF maintenance--not fixing the aircraft, which is physically demanding enough, but (re)arming it. An AIM-9 weighs 190 lbs and and AIM-120 weighs 335 lbs; these are air-to-air missiles that many of our fighters carry. Generally, there are lifts to help the crew get the missiles up to the racks, rails, or other hard points so they can be fastened into place and their electronics connected to the cockpit. These weapons stations, on nearly all of our fighters, are over the crewmen's heads. What happens when the lift fails? The fighter does not go unarmed; the crew manually humps the missile up to the hard point.

The fighter's refueling hose is heavy (though not 180 lbs' worth) and very stiff--even more so when the fuel is flowing, pressurizing the hose. And it, too, must be lifted up to the fighter's wing, over his head.

There's no room for error here, either from carelessness, clumsiness, or lack of strength--especially if the fighter is being hot-turned, rearmed and refueled with the engines running.

Now do that for your entire squadron, because they need to be launched, all 15 of them right damn now. And do it again two hours later. And again. If the support equipment isn't working, that's a lot of physical labor, and these crewmen will never see combat unless things are really in the poo.

As for being unable to deploy due to pregnancy, my initial reaction is to make pregnancy grounds for immediate discharge.

This would be entirely appropriate, except it's not PC. I can't speak for the Army or Marines, but usually USAF stateside assignments last long enough that there's time to plan ahead, get pregnant, have the kid, with arrangements already made for his care when the parents are on duty and (maybe not too much) later when the parents are reassigned overseas, perhaps one or both to a combat zone. Being careless enough for a pregnancy to interfere with answering a reassignment isn't acceptable.

As for hooking up, in my 14 years in the USAF, I never saw that create a problem in any of my units, including any of our deployments. It's not that it didn't happen, but it was rare, and the...participants...never let it interfere with their duties, and neither did their fellow unit members who knew about it.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

Thanks for the info on non-combat injury possibilities.

This would be entirely appropriate, except it's not PC.

So, question. What happens to a male serviceman who engages in risky but legal behavior (outside his military duties) and injures himself so badly he is unable to deploy? Is he disciplined in any way or is this considered just an accident?

E Hines said...

What happens to a male serviceman who engages in risky but legal behavior (outside his military duties) and injures himself so badly he is unable to deploy? Is he disciplined in any way or is this considered just an accident?

There are line of duty determinations made on all injuries that impact an airman's (I can only speak for the USAF) ability to do his task. IMNSHO, these too often white wash the incident, though, especially if it occurred off duty (on duty injuries are taken much more seriously).

There's a flip side to this, too: the investigators have absolutely no sense of humor. A couple of pilots in a squadron to which I was assigned for a couple of years were playing tennis after hours, and one of them blew up his ankle. The uninjured pilot, in his part of the incident report (necessitated by the fact that the blown ankle would have prevented the one from strapping on his jet for a couple of days, should the need have arisen (he wasn't scheduled, though, for those couple of days)), described the heroism and dedication to the game shown by the injured pilot in finishing the point, and then the game, and then the match before reporting to the base hospital (USAF bases don't do clinics--everything goes to the hospital) for treatment. Neverminding that both pilots acknowledged the injury and its cause, they both were written up for being smartasses in their report. The injury itself was ruled no big deal, as in fact it was not, even had the injured pilot been forced to miss his scheduled sortie(s): the injury was not the result of carelessness, but was in the category of stuff happens.

Injuries from drunk driving, from flying too soon after spear fishing--even from carelessly spear fishing too soon before a scheduled flight and having to skip the flight--usually are taken very seriously, but too often are just "boys will be boys." The white washes tended, at least in my day, to center on "no harm, no foul." If no flights were missed, if no maintenance requirement was missed, etc (and no joking in the reports), even the carelessness/stupidity injuries tended to be looked past. If the mission were impacted, the injury cause was taken seriously.

Regarding deployment, the injured pilot deployed, anyway, unless he was hospitalized. He just didn't fly his jet, he flew in the transport with the support airmen and equipment. The jet flew; USAF squadrons always have more pilots than jets.

Eric Hines

Ymar Sakar said...

They're just going to send them against ISIS, Benghazi look a likes, and Ebola Africa, then after the Regime got them killed intentionally, they'll blame it on the military's sexist and misogynistic practices.

That will produce enough pretext for another purge, this time installing women as officers and combat battalion leaders.

The Left fights their war on differently, differently from the REpublican's war on Sarah Palin women

Elise said...

Thanks for the info, Eric.

Grim said...

...there are women to whom enlisting in the military to serve their country is every bit as important...

That's true. The key military concept that is hard for a civilian to get is that it's irrelevant. The rest of American life is built around self-actualization. Military life is not. It's built around the needs of the force toward the success of the military's mission. The individual enlists for reasons of his own (or her own, in this case). But the individual and his reasons are completely expendable.

The mission is all important: it's the most important thing in the world. Success in that mission is the only thing that lets all that self-actualization be possible in a hostile world. All the human happiness that comes from ordinary life is made possible by their success in holding a place in the world for us to live and do as we wish.

So yes, you're right: but no one should care. That I have done so is to my shame.

Elise said...

I believe that when we are talking about a man to whom it is important to serve his country in the military and who is mentally and physically capable of doing so, there is something more profound involved than preference and self-actualization. I believe the same is true for a woman who wishes to do the same and is equally capable of doing so.

No, the military is not a EOE jobs program but it should want and get the best talent it can, whatever that talent looks like.