Double standard: Pentagon hints at changes to allow more women in ground combat

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Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness, predicts the military will lower some standards for both sexes to please political leaders.

“Despite denials today, the Marines will retain a number of less-qualified men just to please Congress by assigning a few women to direct ground combat units,” Ms. Donnelly said. “They will also drop tough training standards deemed to be ‘unfair’ to women. The practice will employ ‘equal’ standards that are lower than they are now.”

Use of the word “validate” by the top brass to describe studies underway, she said, means that “since the goal is to increase ‘diversity,’ the only standards that will be rated ‘valid’ are those that promote gender diversity.”

The military also is considering different training techniques to get women to the point where they can meet all combat qualification standards.

Rep. Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts Democrat, quoted a woman now involved in setting combat standards: “Her comment was that, ‘Yes, you want the standards to be gender-neutral. But you may need to train to these standards in different ways in order for women to have success.’”

Mental toughness

Then there is the brain power it takes to qualify for the gritty job of fighting on the ground day in, day out.

Senior leaders now are ranking mental qualifications on an even footing with physical prowess.

“The psychological piece is equally important to this as the physical,” Lt. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., deputy Marine commandant for manpower, said at the House Armed Services subcommittee hearing in July.

Army Gen. Bromberg said, “I think we’re all realizing that the mental agility required of today’s tasks are much more than we realized in the past.”

Mr. Maginnis, an artillery officer by training, said that, in the end, the commanders are looking for killers.

“Smart people, male and female, don’t necessarily make good killers,” he said. “Bottom line, we need people willing to kill in very tough places, and men have many natural advantages.”

Rep. Joseph J. Heck, Nevada Republican and a colonel in the Army Reserve, made a prediction about what the military will announce in late 2014.

“You may find a standard that, through the validation process, is going to be made lower, easier, less than what is currently in place,” Mr. Heck told the generals at the hearing. “And you’re going to have somebody turn around and try to change that scientific validation into an argument of ‘You’re artificially lowering a standard.’”

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