In 1997 I enlisted in the U.S. Army straight out of high school and spent three years as a mechanized infantryman.
After Basic Training in Fort Benning, Ga., I was sent to Schweinfurt, Germany, to join my unit, Charlie Co., 1/18th Infantry Battalion. I was part of First Infantry Division, known by most civilians as “The Big Red One.”
My time in service does not include the kind of deployments faced by the men and women who serve in a post 9/11 world, but I am confident that I can speak knowledgeably on the culture of combat units.
And I am confident Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s announcement that the front lines will now be an option for women is, for all intents and purposes, a policy shift that will get good soldiers killed.
While most commentary since the shift was revealed Wednesday has focused on the physical rigors demanded in combat roles, little has been mentioned about the sexual element that first sergeants and company commanders will now be forced to deal with. After all, these units are comprised largely of young enlisted men - and soon women - who are in their physical prime.
Anything that takes the focus of a fighting force away from the mission at hand is a liability, and in combat even minor distractions can get people killed.
The last thing a squad leader should have to deal with on the battlefield should be the fallout from a relationship gone sour, love triangles or any number relationship calamities that will ensue when young men and women are thrust into close quarters for extended periods of time.
The dirty little secret that no one — including Pentagon brass — wants to talk about is the romantic headaches that have been caused in other military occupational specialties where men and women serve together.
While the degree to which sexual shenanigans detract from the overall mission may be negligible in support units, it would be absolutely devastating for the light infantryman. The nation’s front-line warriors have enough to worry about; they should not have to deal with the surprises that pop out of Pandora’s Box forced upon them by social engineers.
• Douglas Ernst is a writer for the Continuous News Desk at The Washington Times.