On Inauguration Day, President Donald Trump talked about the “forgotten men and women of our country. Everyone is listening to you now.”
These words must have encouraged forgotten Americans in the military. For many years, their opinions about politically correct mandates from Pentagon officials have been deliberately ignored.
Consider Marine Capt. Lauren Serrano, who respectfully asked a question of President Barack Obama at a military forum last September. Capt. Serrano cited Marine Corps field tests showing that mixed-gender units took up to 159 percent longer to evacuate a wounded battlefield casualty.
“As the wife of a Marine who deploys to combat often,” she said, “that added time could mean the difference between my husband living or dying. Why were these tangible negative consequences disregarded?”
Mr. Obama’s rambling answer betrayed indifference. In 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter abolished women’s exemptions from direct ground combat units, such as the infantry, showing little concern about disproportionately high female injury rates. Mr. Carter brushed aside scientific research showing that in field tests with typical combat arms tasks, all-male teams outperformed mixed-gender units 69 percent of the time.
Then-Commandant General Joseph Dunford asked that some fighting units, such as infantry battalions and Special Operations Forces, remain all-male. He backed that request with empirical data confirming physical differences in strength and endurance that would impede speed and lethality in battle.
None of that mattered. The administration’s goal was to promote demographic “gender diversity metrics” (quotas), regardless of the impact on combat effectiveness.
In an official survey of Navy SEALs and Special Operators, 85 percent of respondents opposed mixed-gender commando teams, with 80 percent expressing doubts about women’s physical abilities to handle the job.
When the Army asked 170,000 active-duty women whether they would want to serve in combat arms units, such as the infantry, 92.5 percent said they would not. Mr. Carter nevertheless announced that combat arms assignments for minimally qualified women would be made on the same involuntary basis as men.
Mr. Carter also disregarded a major Center for Naval Analysis survey asking thousands of Marines how prospective rule changes making women eligible for the combat arms would affect their decisions to join or stay in the Corps. Five percent of female Marine respondents said they would not have joined the Corps under such rules.
When women were asked about orders to serve in the combat arms on an involuntary basis, negative responses jumped to 23 percent, almost one in four. Twenty-two percent of male Marines expressed the same opinion.
Surveys such as this matter because our all-volunteer force depends on young men’s and women’s willingness to serve in uniform.
Recently, The Washington Times reported that personnel shortages could threaten the Trump administration’s plans to rebuild the military. Bonuses of $10,000 or more may not be enough to retain personnel and families, especially when civilian jobs become more attractive as our economy gets stronger.
Politically correct social experiments have alienated personnel that the military cannot do without. Uniformed doctors and nurses, for example, are being ordered to provide or condone transgender hormone treatments or surgeries that many consider unethical.
Mr. Obama’s transgender policy disregards the fact that changes in bureaucratic “gender markers” cannot transform a man into a woman or vice versa. True gender markers exist in unchanging XX and XY chromosomes in human DNA, but biological realities are not PC.
A Navy officer told me he will have to disobey orders to promote transgender education materials that he knows to be false. Because the Obama administration decided in 2015 to treat transgenders as a special, protected class, there are no conscience protections for medical personnel or military chaplains.
Military women, to no avail, have expressed concerns about personal privacy and “gender pretenders” in private living quarters. Students and parents with children in Defense Department schools weren’t even asked about a recent decision to open school locker rooms and restrooms to persons identified at birth as the opposite sex. Several states are challenging similar mandates in civilian schools, but in the armed forces all personnel must stay silent, follow orders, or leave.
Political correctness that threatens the all-volunteer force is a national security issue. Will help soon be on the way?
The 2016 Republican National Platform promised to conduct “an objective review of the impact on readiness of the current Administration’s ideology-based personnel policies” and to “correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action.”
The platform also stated, “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation … Military readiness should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.”
Mr. Trump reinforced this resolution when he said to all Americans, including military personnel and families, “You will never be ignored again.”
Two combat veterans who were planning to resign due to PC mandates told me they have changed their minds. They and many others are relying on Mr. Trump’s pledge, “I will never, ever let you down.”
For reasons of national security, and to retain American military superiority, the new administration must never let military voices be forgotten again.
• Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues. More information is available at www.cmrlink.org.