Moral courage needed addressing women in combat

Daniel Cortez 2By Daniel Cortez

Ladies and gentleman, guard your daughters. The government may want them for cannon fodder while attempting to advance the concept of women in combat.

Four decades ago while I was serving as a Marine Drill Instructor and later running a leadership school, we debated suggesting gender equality demanded the joint services put women in front line units.

Bad idea then … bad idea now.

I recall General Sam Jaskilka, the Marine Corps’ second highest ranking officer, speaking candidly about the fairer sex in combat.

Jaskilka a decorated World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veteran, calmly and frankly stated as he was visiting us troops in New Orleans at the time that he did not advocate sending women to combat. He was an old school gentleman when it came to women, and he said with specificity, “But they might.”

The “they” were politicians in Washington.

Many of us who saw combat in Vietnam, in spite of the “make love not war” swinging 60s and 70s movement, respected equality in a modern woman’s role, even when they wanted to burn their bras.  But few veteran dads wanted to see their daughters actually experience combat and become causalities.

Jaskilka’s words came to mind after interviewing Marine Lieutenant General Ronald Bailey at the recent modern day Marine exposition at Quantico.  He was questioned about the expense and effectiveness of women in front line combat units.

Bailey referenced a year-long study recently released by the Marine Corps reminding, “We work for civilians.” And the leadership should “follow the confidence of the study.”

But sadly, there was not considerable confidence in that study examining the combat effectiveness of squads, teams, and crews with women.  Actually, the synopsis suggested mixed units were not as effective as their all male counterparts.

The study further indicated units with just one or two women suffered more injuries, moved slower, and emphasized the notable difference in time it took to medically evacuate a wounded comrade over an all-male unit.

That’s a real confidence builder in Virginia, knowing if a citizen’s son or daughter served in the future and was wounded in battle, they might lose life or limb simply because a female counterpart lacked the physical strength to carry them.

No doubt someone will be quick to point out the Army’s recent success finally having the first two women actually pass their Ranger course.  A whole two.

Sadly, the Marines can’t boast one woman who has passed while attempting to complete their equivalent, the Infantry Officer’s Course.

Bailey spoke of the fantastic women Marines who participated in the study and how the “leadership will make the right decision.”

Well, General, sometimes political leadership makes the wrong decision and military men and women count on their seniors to set them straight.  But Bailey remained sadly undaunted addressing the leadership aspect of the general officer corps on this subject.

“I’m not going to get into a ‘who had moral courage’ or do whatever,” Bailey stated.

Truly a disappointing politically expedient statement by Bailey, when the reality is Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus or the Secretary of Defense might force Marines to accept women in all combat units, and lowering standards might be necessary.

And when the decision is made, Bailey will come to attention, salute, and follow orders like a good Marine who puts the mission first over the welfare of the troops.  Such is the price of political correctness by today’s officer corps hoping not to ruffle the political feathers of those who will promote them in the future.

That is, until the casualties start increasing.

Daniel Cortez, a distinguished Vietnam veteran and award winning writer/broadcaster, is active in veterans and political affairs with an independent voter perspective. He can be reached at

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