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View Diary: Panetta said to be lifting military's ban on women in combat (147 comments)

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  •  I would hope it does. (6+ / 0-)

    As it currently is, it's discrimination that's looked down on in every other American institution.

    •  This is the big issue for me. (4+ / 0-)

      I don't know if you realize this, but men are held to tougher physical standards than women in the military. I don't know exactly what's being proposed, but if they want women to serve in the infantry, that can't be allowed.

      There are certainly women who are fast and strong enough to meet the male PT standards, so IMO they should be allowed to serve in the infantry. But those that can't should not be let in, certainly not just because how people might look at it.

      I think with respect to body fat standards, you should cut women slack there because they simply have more fat than men, it would be unhealthy for them to try and meet male body fat standards. But as far as push up, sit up and timed run standards... well, they're called standards for a reason.

      You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

      by Eric Stratton on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:21:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are the standards relevant? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, Gordon20024, lcbo, cocinero

        Timed run, clearly, carrying a heavy pack, clearly.

        Though I know little about combat, I don't think it prominently features pushups.

        •  Pushups may be irrelevant (4+ / 0-)

          but the upper body strength to do an extended elbow crawl certainly isn't.

          Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

          by milkbone on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:35:30 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  So test the elbow crawl. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            askew, DSPS owl

            Or at least something biomechanically similar to it.

            Pushups and pull-ups don't measure generic 'upper body strength' for women, if, in fact, there is any such thing. You can't count how many pushups a woman can do and guess how much weight she can carry or how long she can elbow-crawl or whether she can climb a rope or a wall. Nor can you watch her do any of those things and guess how many pushups she can do.

            The vast and overwhelming majority of healthy, fit women, including the ones successfully serving in non-combat-but-really-combat positions, can do 20-40 pushups and zero to maybe one pull-up. In other words, they fail the male PFT standards so badly that they'd never have made it out of boot camp, if they made it in in the first place. But they don't perform anywhere near that badly on realistic physical challenges. Most of them pass, and some men - men who met the PFT standards - fail.

            I know that's terribly inconvenient. But women are built differently, and so they approach real physical challenges differently. The PFT doesn't give you that option; there's one 'right' form for pushups and pull-ups, and it's the form designed to test men.

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:11:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There are quite likely to actually be times (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Eric Stratton

              particularly in urban combat environments, where a soldier will have to pull themselves up and over a wall or pull themselves up using the hand-rail of a damaged stairwell, ect.

              It's relevant.

              If they start raising any of those standards just to exclude women, that's a problem.

              "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

              by JesseCW on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:42:34 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sure, it's relevant (0+ / 0-)

                whether a soldier can pull herself up over an obstacle.

                Watch a woman actually do that, though, and you'll see that her movements bear almost no resemblance to a pull-up or chin-up.

                Pectoral and bicep strength might be good proxies for men's overall upper body capability, but they're all but irrelevant for women. If you want to know if a woman can climb over a wall, you want to know about her leg, core, and hand strength. Flexibility might be a plus too. Really, though, it's easiest just to see if she can climb over a wall. It's not like the military is short on obstacle courses.

                "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

                by kyril on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 03:28:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  The biggest factor in combat surviveability (8+ / 0-)

          is physical fitness. I heard the Army was going to revise the APFT because of the issue you raise... relevance. I got out last year so I only ever did it old school.

          The thing is, an imperfect standard is infinitely better than no standard. I think it's a good idea to revise the test, but whatever they have for men, that's what women need to do if they want that gig.

          There are women who can definitely do this, I served with plenty of women who were absolute PT studs. They tended to be among the more competent soldiers we had, and they should have been brought into combat arms. But they have to meet the standards, whatever they are.

          Again, I'm not talking anatomical differences like height and weight standards. I'm talking about getting from point A to B in X amount of time or moving a certain weight a certain distance. That's what counts.

          My final point in this discussion is that it's largely a myth that there's anything magical about combat arms. It actually is a shitty, thankless job. You can get way better pay and promotion opportunities in medical or intelligence related fields. No one is getting shafted by being left out of the infantry. There are those who prefer it, and they're borderline insane. The infantry, for most, is about the worst job in the Army.

          You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

          by Eric Stratton on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:44:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  pushups build UBS -- upper body strength (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JesseCW

          but they're not the only way to do it, or even the best way.

          Back in the '70s the Air Force overhauled its PT routines and included extra upper body strength building routines for females, specifically.

          They went from having nearly a 20% failure rate on the "confidence course" of first-attempts among females to having a <5% failure rate on first attempt.

          In fact they got it down to about a 2% difference, on first attempt, between male and female BMTS students, IIRC.

          Don't know what they're doing now. I hear USAF BMTS is much more "warrior oriented" now and includes a "hell week".

          LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

          by BlackSheep1 on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:31:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  you said it (0+ / 0-)

          "Though I know little about combat, I don't think it prominently features pushups."

          And that should be the alpha and omega of your input.

          Here is the bottom line - NO test will cover all situations that come up in combat.  NONE.  

          What we have with the Army PT test is an imperfect beats but one that has served us well for a long time.  

          Pushups - Upper body
          Situps - Abdominal
          2 Mile Run - Cardiovascular

          I have taken hundreds of PT tests and administered hundreds more.  I have never seen a truly "in shape" person  - male or female - fail a PT test.  Never.  And I can count on one had the number of times I have seen someone who I looked at and said "no way they pass" actually get a passing score.  Its a good test.  Not a perfect one, but a good one.

          But combat is not a PT test.  Passing a PT test is not an entry into combat.

          It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

          by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 05:48:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  This comment started to annoy me, (11+ / 0-)

        but you clarified that as long as they meet the higher standards.

        It's the classic sexist patriarchal argument to go back to the "standards" stuff.

        Set the standards. Have the military people who do that stuff set them wherever they think soldiers need to be. And allow anyone who meets them, man or woman, to go forward.

        Anything less is sexist bullshit.

        As a male, I would not meet those standards. I've known women who probably or certainly would. Yet I'm already closer to being a soldier than any of them are.

        Bull. Shit.

      •  Younger people (0+ / 0-)

        are also held to tougher physical standards than older people. Also, the army changed their standards in 2011 (http://www.military.com/...). I'm not sure if you're referring to these new standards, but the Army says it is "gender neutral."

        "It is, it seems, politically impossible to organize expenditure on the scale necessary to prove my case -- except in war conditions."--JM Keynes, 1940

        by randomfacts on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:43:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I heard that... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JesseCW

          I got out in 2012 and still took the old test. If they really did make it gender neutral, well it's about damn time.

          I always thought the old standards were too hard on some and too easy on others, because they were just not very good metrics in general. All I was saying is that the standards need to be the same for everyone, especially in combat jobs.

          You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

          by Eric Stratton on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:46:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  upper-body strength (5+ / 0-)

            Taliban forces did surrender the next morning, and the first female navigator to open fire in combat came to be known as the "Angel of Death" among the Afghans. That battle – and others – also made Black, now a major, the first woman to earn the Air Force's combat action medal.

            Warning - some snark above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ "We're like a strip club with a million bouncers and no strippers." (HBO's Real Time, January 18, 2013)

            by annieli on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:51:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  When they talk about combat... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JesseCW

              billets, this is not what they are referring to.

              "[I]n the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone...They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."

              by cardboardurinal on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:20:35 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Here is an article (0+ / 0-)

          http://www.armytimes.com/...
          It looks like there are still different scoring scales on gender, but the test itself has gotten tougher, more focus on upper body strength and is closer to actual combat situations.

          "It is, it seems, politically impossible to organize expenditure on the scale necessary to prove my case -- except in war conditions."--JM Keynes, 1940

          by randomfacts on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 01:48:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  no (0+ / 0-)

            It didnt get tougher, it has STARTED moving back to the way things were.

            In the past the toughest standard was the one for the youngest service members.  But too many soldiers were failing PT tests when they were young so instead of fixing soldiers we fixed the test.  We have SLOWLY started to go back the other way.

            Who ever said the test was "gender neutral" is wrong.  There are TWO tests - Male and Female.

            It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

            by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 06:08:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  my 2 cents (10+ / 0-)

          The same concerns of standards and ability to drag out a wounded comrade, courage, etc. was brought up when fire departments started bringing women onto the department.  Some areas had separate standards, others modified them in general.  What eventually happened was many departments created task based standards that were timed. For example a test would include pulling 200 feet of 2.5 inch hose that is streched out (for maxium friction on the ground), carrying a hose bale (approximately 60 pounds) up 3 stories (using stairs safely) with full protective gear (add approximately 50 pounds), at the top pull up another 1 or 2 hose bales using a rope), raise and lower an extension ladder, carry a hose bale through an obstacle course (including climbing a wall), using a sledge hammer to move a heavy metal block across the floor a certain distance, and other tasks within 10 minutes.   Many women had to complete the same test with the same results to get considered and eventually hired.  In my short time in the fire department I have had several women supervisors who did excellent jobs in stressful situations.  I had no problem doing my job with them and knowing they had my back if things went wrong.  

          There have been women in the fire departments for years and I know that several major cities (I think LA City and / or San Francisco have a woman Chief of the Department).  This is considering that  fire departments can be as bad as, if not worse than the millitary, in male dominant thinking.  As a sign seen in the background of a firehouse scene in the movie Backdraft stated "150 years of service unimpeded by progress".
           

          Two quotes I wish to live by "Strength and Honor" (Gladiator) and "Do or Do Not, There is no Try" (SW-ESB).

          by SQD35R on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:11:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Task based standards are the way to go (8+ / 0-)

            Hiring of women went up dramatically when those were put in place in fore departments. A lot of women who don't look good on a pull-up bar look great hauling hose and carrying dummies. Better than a lot of men with higher PFT scores.

            The thing is that real tasks allow women to adapt their approach to their own biomechanical strengths. There's more than one way to exert a force with your arms, and not all of them involve brute-forcing it with your pecs.

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:18:12 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Just for reference... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              randomfacts, CJ WIHorse

              The Canadian Forces have allowed women into all combat roles, infantry included, for years, and women demonstrated they could do the job in combat in Afghanistan where our troops were for over a decade.

              Just like they proved being gay had no effect on combat effectiveness.

              So once again, what? Is someone claiming that Americans are incapable of doing something their neighbours to the north can yet one more time?

      •  Are you old enough to remember (19+ / 0-)

        when we went through this in the civilian world, in the 70s, when the categories, "Help Wanted - Male" and "Help Wanted - Female" went away?

        The point made at the time was, gender was being used to stand in for whatever the actual qualifications for a job were. If someone needs to carry 100 pounds to do a job properly, then make that the test for the job, rather than say that only men may apply. Gender itself was found by courts to be an actual BFOQ, or "Bona Fide Occupational Qualification" for a very few jobs (including sperm donor and wet nurse).

        There were certainly people at the time worrying that unqualified cops and firefighters and so on would "have to be" hired, but in fact, it just forced employers to consider what was really needed to do a job and look for that. I think that the armed services, more than possibly any other organization, has a good handle on what each of their jobs requires. I think they can deal with this. You yourself demonstrate that combat jobs should be open for women to apply for when you say

        There are certainly women who are fast and strong enough to meet the male PT standards, so IMO they should be allowed to serve in the infantry. But those that can't should not be let in
        Open for women to apply for is what we're talking about here, not women can stroll in and claim any job they like. I don't think the military lets anyone do that, nor should they.

        •  Yes, yes, yes. I remember when the issue of... (8+ / 0-)

          ....women firefighters came up in the city of Boulder. There were a lot of people who said they couldn't handle it (plus BS about sleeping in the fire station and restrooms, yada, yada. But the they-can't-do-it talk flew in the face of the fact that the majority, more than 75 percent of volunteer firefighters in county when they surveyed them, were women. Much of this was mountain terrain and they were widely respected. Some of them had biceps that put mine to shame at a time when mine were ample.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:10:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  'Zactly. This is the same shit with a different (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          belinda ridgewood

          coat of paint.

          The idiots won't get it. The rest of us will. The world will move on, and hundreds of years from now kids in school will laugh at and deride the backwards people from the dumb-dumb ages who banned people from combat for being female.

          And we will deserve to be laughed at.

      •  This is a big issue for me too. (5+ / 0-)

        I don't know if you realize this, Eric, but today's women are held to much tougher physical standards than male soldiers in WWII. And those soldiers did just fine in combat.

        It is really, at bottom, a question of putting people where their ability can take them. For you, that means women have to be physically identical to men. For me and many others, it means that women must be physically able to participate in combat. They are.

        Women have fought, with or without sanction, in every recorded war, including current wars where they're not "allowed" to fight. (As if they're not going to defend themselves and their comrades.) They've done well, and there is no reason to hold up this magical "but they're not men" ideal--you don't have to be a man to be a good combat soldier.

        I'm amazed by people's courage and kindness in the face of everything and life.

        by LaraJones on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 02:24:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  falses equivlance (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eric Stratton

          We were sending those guys over to die.  Ill be the first to admit that I probably would not hold up to the WWII standards for PT.  Not PT test, but the PT they did.  

          We had VERY low standards for entry and staying in the military in WWII.  The standard for staying alive and surviving was a bit higher.

          It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

          by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 06:12:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  250k US soldiers died in WWII and 58k in Vietnam. (0+ / 0-)

          Right now the combined total for Iraq and Afghanistan is around 10k. That's progress. We're going in the right direction, we do NOT want to go back to the old way of doing things.

          You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

          by Eric Stratton on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:56:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Physically challenging jobs (0+ / 0-)

        Already have a single standard. Navy EOD, Air Force SERE Specialists, all have single standards, and they didn't make them any easier. And those are, to my knowledge, the most physically demanding jobs available to women in the military.

        You need a license to drive, a license to run a business, but any idiot can buy a gun.

        by Hannibal on Wed Jan 23, 2013 at 03:00:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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