Leadership: October 5, 2003


There is a growing feeling among U.S. generals and admirals that the "feminization of the military" which took place during the 1990s has done serious and long lasting damage. This has expressed itself in many ways. The marines, which successfully resisted the worst aspects of feminization (training male and female recruits together in boot camp, lowering standards to accommodate women's different physical and psychological capabilities, forcing NCOs and officers to insure that women succeeded whether the women were capable of some jobs or not) are seen as the one service that successfully integrated more women into its ranks. But the marines took a lot of political heat for doing things their way, particularly when Bill Clinton was president. 

Perhaps more telling, the army was appalled at how many of their non-combat troops were ill-prepared for combat when they ran into ambushes during recent Iraq fighting. In past wars, the non-combat troops were much better at dealing with this sort of thing. Questioning the non-combat troops revealed that there had developed an attitude of "we're not really soldiers, we just look like them" among a generation of troops. These men and women had gone though watered down basic training and served under NCOs and officers more concerned about being politically correct towards female troops than making sure everyone was combat ready. The marines never compromised on their rule that "every marine is a rifleman.." The women got extra training if they needed it, but it was understood that they would be able to do what had to be done if they got involved in a fire fight. And that was how it played out in Iraq. 

Perhaps the most galling sign of a growing problem appeared when the Air Force recently ran an opinion survey among cadets at the Air Force Academy. Some 40 percent of the cadets, both male and female, felt that the physical and psychological differences between the sexes made complete acceptance of women in the military unlikely, ever. Among male cadets, twenty percent felt that women don't belong at the academy at all. The survey showed that the longer cadets were at the academy, the more cynical they became about all the rules and regulations in place to make sure women are "treated equally." Senior cadets are much less likely to believe in the "Honor System" (turning in others for violation of regulations) than freshmen. After a year or two at the academy, most cadets realize that the way the system is supposed to work, and the way it actually does, is quite different. This experience is common in the other services, except in the marines. Back in the 1990s, one Department of Defense political appointee noted how the marines marched to their own music and called them "extremists." The marines took it as a compliment. 


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