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“Women have earned great respect for their service in the recent wars, but problems of sexual assault and misconduct in the military have gotten much worse, with no end in sight,” Mrs. Donnelly said.

“Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey nevertheless has made the absurd argument that putting women into the land combat arms would reduce incidents of sexual misconduct,” she said. “On the contrary, it is reasonable to expect that all such problems would become even worse. Women are not the primary source of problems with gender-integration. Pentagon policymakers, who believe and implement misguided assumptions about gender equality, ultimately are to blame.”

Women are a distraction

For male pilots, opening squadrons to women has brought on a new era of “political correctness.”

Salty language or a risque jokes can fetch a hotline complaint that prompts an investigation and possibly an ended career.

John Lehman, secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and a former A-6 Intruder bombardier, penned an article in Naval Proceedings magazine in 2011 that crystalized the “PC” culture.

“Those attributes of naval aviators — willingness to take intelligent calculated risk, self-confidence, even a certain swagger — that are invaluable in wartime are the very ones that make them particularly vulnerable in today’s zero-tolerance Navy,” Mr. Lehman wrote. “The political correctness thought police, like Inspector Javert in ‘Les Miserables,’ are out to get them and are relentless.”

Jon Ault, a retired F-14 pilot, wishes the ready room was still all-male.

“I think it’s all been a huge mistake and unnecessary,” Mr. Ault told The Times. “Of course, we have males flying combat aircraft that shouldn’t be, but the percentage is much smaller than that of the females.

“In the first 200-plus years of this country’s existence, we never found it necessary to send women into combat, and I don’t believe we need to now. Women are a distraction. It’s a done deal though. Women in the combat arms piece of the military are here to stay. Current leadership must learn how to deal with it and so far I don’t feel they have a handle on it.”

Female fighter pilots say there are lessons for this next giant step to be played out at training grounds such as the Army’s infantry school at Fort Benning, Ga., and the Marine Corps‘ infantry course at Quantico, Va.

Women who plan to volunteer must get ready physically and mentally before they arrive.

“The most important thing is you have to be prepared for going into those career fields,” Col. Campbell said. “I mean, they’re certainly difficult and challenging career fields, but if you go in prepared and prepared to work very hard, that makes a world of difference.”

Col. McSally said it is up to commanders to ensure good order and discipline. That means the same standards so as not to generate resentment among men. “Not even subtle double-standards,” she said. “Don’t treat them like daughters.”

“I’ve certainly offered myself as a resource so that we’re not repeating the same challenges and mistakes over gain,” she said. “Obviously there are some things different. Ground combat is not the same as air combat. But the dynamic of making sure you are setting the standard and people are meeting the standard and that you in the leadership command have a climate of core values — that remains the same.”