In my first post on the women in combat subject Women Shouldn’t Be in Combat Units!, I received an outpouring of “hate” mail and tweets. As I sorted through them, I attempted to understand why folks believe women shouldn’t be in combat. I am honestly interested in everyone’s thoughts.
I put together a list of reasons provided to me and followed up with a second post, Reasons Why Women Shouldn’t Be in Combat Units. Very quickly I received another volley of reasons why I was wrong about this—why women REALLY should not be in combat units.
I’m good with admitting I’m wrong when I am, but you have yet to convince me on this subject. So let’s take a look at what else folks have told me is their reasoning is for excluding women in combat units.
“I don’t want to see a woman service member die in combat.”
Hey, man, it is way too late. Plenty of women have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan in wooden boxes. You know why—because they were warriors who fought and died for their country. They paid the ultimate sacrifice so you could continue to patronize them freely.
As an officer in the United States Army I don’t want any service member to die in combat. But this isn’t a reality.
“Women aren’t physically capable of handling the stresses of war.”
Wait, what, really?
Here is a quick funny story. It is 2004 and I’m a company commander stationed in Germany. My boss tells me there is some reorganization about to happen. He tells me to choose three of the four lieutenants I have to deploy with the company to Iraq. At the time I have two female and two male lieutenants.
So let’s talk physical strength. I have a lieutenant I’ll call Boris. Boris was a beast—He could run faster than almost anyone in the company. In the combative pit he was unbeatable unless we sent two or three people in there to take him down. Guess what, though—He couldn’t lead anyone to the bathroom.
I’ll never forget the conversation when I tell him I’m choosing a female lieutenant over him.
“Boris, you need more development as an officer and leader,” I say. “I’ve chosen to take Lieutenant Velazquez with the company to Iraq.”
He has a look of shock on his face that turns to disgust as he says, “But, Sir, she’s a girl. You are choosing a girl over me?”
I’m perplexed by his response but remain firm as I say, “Yes, I am, Boris.”
As a company commander the gender issue wasn’t even taken into consideration. I wanted the best officer to lead my soldiers.
What happened to those two young officers? One deploys successfully to Iraq, is awarded two bronze stars (one for valor) and skillfully leads a platoon of 36 young Americans for an entire year. The other deploys to Afghanistan with my buddy’s company and is subsequently fired as a platoon leader. Guess which one is which.
Let me give you a clue: a lesson to be learned in this case is that physical strength is only one facet of a Warrior.
“Women aren’t emotionally or mentally capable of handling the stresses of war.”
Have you told this to the thousands of women serving in Afghanistan today? What I love about this comment is that it is being proven wrong every day, but for some reason there are people who still believe this. So, if you are one of those people who believe this, I’m here to tell you that you’re dead wrong. How do I know? I’ve seen women perform exceptionally well under the stresses of war with my own eyes.
My challenge to those of you that still don’t believe me: Show me an example of your position. Show me an example of a woman not emotionally or mentally capable of handling the stresses of war. Who knows, you may be able to produce one. But I can produce 10 times as many examples of men breaking down because of the stresses of war. War affects every single person differently—female or male, it doesn’t matter. It is an individual reaction.
So really, guys, I mean really?
Maybe it is time to stop typecasting service members because of gender. What I see in the “hate” comments is nothing but people’s (mostly males who think like Boris) assumptions based on zero supporting evidence.
Am I wrong here? Please tell me why I am wrong or not.
I’ve heard from firefighters and police. Are there other jobs facing similar societal stereotypes?
Does anyone have any examples to share of good or bad experiences with men or women service members during enemy contact?
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