National Security

US Commandos: Integration of Women Will Hurt Effectiveness in Combat


U.S. special operations forces worry that integrating women into the military’s most demanding combat jobs will deal a blow to their effectiveness, result in lower standards, and possibly drive men away from serving in the positions.

The revelations come in a survey, first reported by the Associated Press, that was released in full by the Pentagon last week in timing with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement that all combat jobs would be opened up to women despite recommendations otherwise from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The survey, conducted by the Rand Corporation last year, solicited voluntary responses from over 7,600 men serving in Navy SEAL, Army Delta, and other commando units. Approximately 85 percent of the respondents said they oppose opening special operations positions to women, and 70 percent oppose having women in their individual units.

More than 80 percent answered that women are not strong enough to handle the demands of the job.

The new details of the survey, some results of which were reported by AP earlier this year, follow the release of a nine-month study conducted by the Marine Corps which found that women perform worse than men in combat operations.

The research found that women were injured twice as often as men, demonstrated less accuracy with infantry weapons, were slower than men in tactical movements, and exhibited inferior performance when removing injured troops from the battlefield.

Following the release of the Marine Corps study, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the Marine Corps commandant, recommended that certain Marine Corps ground combat jobs remain closed to women. Carter rejected the request from Dunford, who now serves as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I weigh 225 pounds, and 280 pounds in full kit, as did most of the members of my ODA (a 12-man Army Green Beret unit)," one respondent to the Rand Corporation wrote. "I expect every person on my team to be able to drag any member of my team out of a firefight. A 130 pound female could not do it, I don’t care how much time she spends in the gym. Do we expect wounded men to bleed out because a female soldier could not drag him to cover?"

"Gender equality is not an option when the bullets are flying," another respondent wrote. "Most males in the area of the world I work in would rather back hand a female than listen to her speak. There is a reason we send men to do these jobs."

All respondents to the survey were kept anonymous.

Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads the U.S. Special Operations Command, said last week in the wake of Carter’s announcement that the qualifying standards for special operations jobs will be the same for women as they are for men.