The list of arguments against women in combat is a long one, but the most debated is the issue of physical ability. Those who oppose women in combat claim that their physical attributes are lacking the strength and stamina to perform the job proficiently; they also view women’s ability to become pregnant as a logistical and financial burden. (Burrelli 1)
Military readiness is often linked to the overall effectiveness of an army during a war. The ability for an army to be summoned and deployed is believed to be a show of its strength. Many tacticians feel that the mere readiness of an army can deter an enemy from considering beginning a conflict. Non-supporters of females in combat feel military women becoming pregnant when apart of an active unit as a major hamper to the readiness of an army.
The true danger of women becoming pregnant while in combat positions would be the first few months when the women may or may not know if they are indeed pregnant. (EWAFSG 20) “There are no tests showing the affects of vibrations, gases, and toxins that mother and embryo may be exposed to during combat.” (EWAFSG 20)
A poll of military personnel was taken by the University of Connecticut (The Roper Poll) that showed that 56% of the women in “mixed gender units” became pregnant just prior or during there duty in Desert Storm. (Hoar 1) In the same poll, 46% claimed that the pregnancies, “had a negative impact on unit readiness” and 59% said it had a, “negative impact on morale.” (Hoar 1)
President Bush in 1992 created the Presidential Commission on the Deployment of Women in the Military to determine the capability of women severing in direct combat positions. “The Commission showed that women were three times more nondeployable than men, primarily due to pregnancy, during Operations Desert Shield and Storm.” (Hoar 1) The commission used expert medical witnesses and current military policy to show the pitfalls of having potential mothers severing in military units.
One must be leery of such popular opinion polls. The questions were asked of volunteers among the military will to answer the posed questions. The university’s poll percentages are not based on factual numbers of occurrences, but of the supposed observations taken by members of the military.
Linda Bird Francke the author of Ground Zero: The Gender Wars in the Military writes, "No official records were kept on the impact of pregnancy on women's deployabilty rate to the Gulf war or their evacuation from the Gulf."(Francke 143)
Colonel Barbara Wilson is retired officer from the United States Air Force. When she was asked about women being considered undeployable because of pregnancy, she replied, “The reality is that yes some women were undeployable for reasons due to pregnancy -as were many more men undeployable for substance abuse, alcoholism, court martials, sports related injuries, off-duty fight related injuries and pending charges of domestic violence.” (Wilson 1)
When men’s personal problems are compared to female pregnancy, the argument that it is over costly to the military has a hard time standing up.
Yet as far back as 1975 the Navy discovered that men lost 190,000 days to drug rehabilitation and another 196,000 days to alcohol rehabilitation - almost twice the "time lost" by women to pregnancy. Pregnancy reports and surveys have been generated over and over and by 1990 speculation was rampant that pregnant women were costing the military a proverbial fortune in early returns from overseas bases. Well surprise, surprise - another study showed that the average cost of the early returns for men was $7,174. While the average cost for women due to pregnancy was $2,046. Among medical evacuations, AIDS and substance abuse accounted for up to eight percent, pregnancy for barely one percent. (Wilson 1)
One of the more heated issues about women in combat is their physical ability to perform in combat situations. Opponents feel that women, on a whole, lack the physical strength and stamina to perform in direct combat. Several examples include the belief that women do not have the physical strength to pull or move a fellow wounded combatant from the field of combat to safety. “Even though there are documented cases of nurses doing exactly that in Korea.” (Wilson 1) Also, they harbor belief that a female combatant could not carry the backpacks, food, equipment, and weapons the long distances to the forward combat lines where infantry must travel to meet the enemy. They feel that the testing of women’s ability to perform physically under modified standard testing is unfair and not a true test of a person’s ability to perform the job. Some believe that female pilots cannot handle the speed and force that is necessary to navigate fighting aircraft in combat. (Hoar 1)
The majority (of the Presidential Committee) recommended and the alternative view concurred with reservations that pre-commissioning training ‘may be gender-normed in as much as post-commissioning training is designed specifically for individual specialties, combat, combat support and combat service support.’ An important issue brought to the Commission was the impression among servicemen that grades are awarded under a different standard, giving unfair advantages to women at the expense of men. This impression creates morale problems and may lead to inappropriate expressions of resentment. The GAO's (General Accounting Office) survey on sexual harassment at the service academies found that most incidents described as sexual harassment were related to complaints about dual standards.... (Hoar 1)
Each branch has different standards - not only for women, but also for men, for older men, and "invisible" standards for the higher-ranking officers and NCOs (Non-commissioned Officers). Nothing is standard between the services with respect to physical fitness requirements and they have been admonished to change them and catch up to fair and equitable standards based on gender, age and varied physiological abilities. (Wilson 1)
The GAO made a statement pertaining to the modified physical fitness standards and their presence in the military, "There is a widespread perception that the existence of lower physical fitness standards for women amounts to a ‘double standard.’ However, the physical fitness program is actually intended only to maintain the general fitness and health of military members and fitness testing is not aimed at assessing the ability to perform specific missions or military jobs. Consequently, DOD (Department of Defense) officials and experts agree that it is appropriate to adjust the standards for physiological differences among service members by age and gender.” (Wilson 1) & (GAO 1)
The Presidential Commission chose not to judge women on an individual basis, but took their averages as grounds for exclusion. This bypasses individual achievement and addresses the generalizations of a group. The U.S. Government should not exclude an entire group whose national population exceeds 300 million based on averages. (U.S. Census Bureau 1) It stands to reason that there would be those who greatly exceed these numbers when pulling from so many.
The Majority (of the Presidential Commission) recommended, and the alternative view concurred, that not only should women be excluded from direct land combat units and positions, but that existing service policy on such exclusion should also be codified into law.
Based on the testimony presented to the Commission, the exclusion policy should continue to include multiple-launch rocket systems and field artillery units. Despite technological advances, ground combat is no more refined, no less barbaric, and no less physically demanding that it has been throughout history. The ground combatant relies heavily on his physical strength and mental toughness for survival....
The Commission heard an abundance of expert testimony about the physical differences between men and women that can be summarized as follows:
Women's aerobic capacity is significantly lower, meaning they cannot carry as much as far as fast as men, and they are more susceptible to fatigue.
Women are shorter, have less muscle mass, and weigh less than men, placing them at a distinct disadvantage when performing tasks requiring a high level of muscular strength and aerobic capacity, like ground combat.
Women are also at a higher risk for exercise-induced injuries than men, with 2.13 times greater risk for lower extremity injuries, and 4.71 times greater risk for stress fractures.
In his testimony before the Commission, Dr. William Gregor, LTC, USA (Ret.), a military science professor at the University of Michigan, elaborated on the following differences:
In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median.
This means that in the very physically demanding ground combat environment, as a unit extends the physical envelope of its members, the men have room to improve, whereas the women have already reached the upper end of their limits