Tag: infantry

Women in the Infantry (almost)

It appears that 4 female Marines are going to pass infantry school.  I’ve spoken at length about women in the infantry before so I’m not going to rehash it here.  I would like to make a few points though.  First off, I’d like to congratulate these women.  When I graduated boot camp I did not feel it was terribly difficult physically.  Mentally on the other hand…

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the fact that boot camp did NOT even come close to preparing me for infantry school.  The humps and range runs were very difficult for me.  So congratulations to these women. They’ve done something to be very proud of.  It’s also worth noting that in general you cannot just drop out of infantry school.  You can be dropped, and if you’re persistent you can drop out of boot camp or infantry school, but you can’t just put up your hand and say, “I quit” like people going out for special forces can.  These women had the option to quit that the men didn’t.  That they pushed through is a testament to their character.

Secondly, I am somewhat concerned about watering down the standards.  I’m not sure when they chose to do so, but the final hump was 12.5 miles.  This is just a shade over the 10 miles the final hump in boot camp is.  I haven’t been out all that long (I graduated infantry school in 2000) and the final hump was 18 miles  (word is that it was closer to 21, but I’ll stick with the published number).  Were my tin foil hat improperly adjusted I’d say women joining the infantry and lowering of the most grueling task in infantry school are related.

Finally, and perhaps the part most entertaining to me, is the fact that these women will not actually be attached to an infantry unit.  They’re going back to their pogue units.  I would hate to be a male Marine in the same admin/supply/motor T/air wing/whatever section as a female Marine who passed infantry school.  Those men would have to go to work every day knowing that the most badass Marine in their section was a female.  Seriously, grunts think they’re invincible.  Grunts think they’re better than everyone else.  If you’re an admin Corporal or Sergeant and you want to chew this female Lance Corporal’s ass for any reason, and she’s passed infantry school, well, good luck with that.

In short, Marine Corps, toughen up your damn standards.  But all the same, congratulations ladies.  I’d be honored to meet one of you over a beer.  I’ve always wanted a wookie I could call my own, and it’d be amazing were she a grunt as well.

That about sums it up

That about sums it up

Calm Like a Bomb

I’m not sure I’ve ever panicked.  I take that back, I can think of once when I was 18 when I panicked (There you go John, I figure I’d head you off).  There have been only two times in my life I can think of when I’ve been nearly shut down.  Once when I lost a friend, another when I lost my wife.  This past week I got into a wreck.  My back is still killing me, but my truck is surprisingly (mostly) unharmed.  As my tires came out from under me I said to myself calmly, “Well, this is going to happen.” I popped it into 4 and snapped myself into the rail preventing me from hitting head on.

Why do I bring this up?  Even though in many circumstances it’s been helpful, I think the fact that I’ve never panicked might be a problem.

The first time we took incoming in Iraq when everyone was taking cover, I sat on the top of the truck thinking, “Oooooh, pretty.”  In other words, I’m an idiot.  When my marriage was falling apart I am not sure I realized the situation was dire or that there was even really a problem.  When people stress out over going to court and thus overprepare out of fear of the judge, all I can think is of my favorite line from Inglorious Basterds:

This is perhaps one of the mental issues that go unrealized by returning vets.  I don’t think I’m alone.  There is something about being a Marine infantryman that turns down the volume on the rest of life.  So very little seems serious.  So when say, you are running into financial issues and you need to maybe panic so as to adorn yourself with the gravity of the situation, instead you just smile and carry out the plan of the day.  This has caused a problem in my life.  I’ve been entirely too happy on my own without such negativity pressed upon me(though it has its downsides of course) but I think I might need a Jiminy Cricket.

In other words, but for the occasional sobering moment (and damn if they don’t hit hard), I cannot stop smiling over the last year.




I’ve discussed the notion of placing women in the infantry before at length.  Just for a third time, I support it, and not just because it should increase the combat effectiveness of the army. ( just kidding!)

To be honest, I think that not allowing Marines to roll their sleeves, have sleeve tattoos, or wear silkies will prove far more damaging to my Corps than will allowing women in the grunts.  I do think however that this move was made too quickly.  The Marines have slowly been sticking their toes in the water on allowing women in.  It was bound to happen, but it would have been better to have been phased in, rather than made so abruptly.  The army had not been preparing for this though, so perhaps this was the only way it was going to get done in a reasonable time period.

Regardless, there is no need to fear change.  You cannot pat yourself on the back for being on the cutting edge of things while simultaneously avoiding it.  That is not to say that all change is good, but you must be open to it.  The concern of course is that standards are going to be watered down when women are involved.  Unfortunately that’s probably true.  But then again, there will be some unintended consequences — some good, some bad.  One of those is that while standards may come down, there will be a stronger push to not be beaten by the women.  Such shaming of fat bodies will carry over to greater physical fitness.

Honestly, I have had a greater kinship with Marines, especially infantry Marines than anyone in the outside world.  My well documented love of redheads aside, I would consider it the greatest fortune to find a woman who I could share that with.  In Firefly terms, I swoon for Kaylee, and Inara might be hot, but the woman I’d truly want to make my own would be Zoe.  That’s who you establish dominance over this world with.

In short:  not many women can handle a ruck.  Those that can are a special breed.  I’d share a fighting hole with one in an instant.

On a down note, I don’t want to undercut my main point, but you will find a rash of women getting pregnant pre-deployment.  People are really scared to deploy, and I’m not just talking about combat deployments.  I once knew a kid who was going to have his girlfriend run his leg over to break his femur to get him out of a deployment to Okinawa.  The solution for a woman needn’t be quite so drastic.  But that’s no reason to punish all women, nor the Corps for that matter by weeding out the extraordinary women.

Amos Gets Something Right (or simply, Chicks)

It’s no secret I’m no fan of Gen. Amos.  I am still really pissy about the sleeves down deal and I’ve been out for 7 years.  Fuckin’ wingers.

Now the Corps is trying to do something dumb that the army was smart enough to get rid of:  Banning PMAGS.  Now, my internal Marine apologist at first blush actually let this fly.  Unlike the army, the Corps offers a legitimate justification.  They’re concerned with seating issues in the new Infantry Automatic Rifle, the replacement to the M249 SAW.  It appears this issue is going to be resolved soon as Magpul has acknowledged this and is updating their next generation PMAGs to handle the issue.

But you know, it’s still a foolish move for 3 reasons:

1)  Let’s play the game of percentages.  The guys that make the call on this sort of thing are the type of people that haven’t had a day in the field since they left TBS.  They don’t understand stoppages because the only workout their rifle gets is when it goes to the range to qual once a year.  How many magazine malfunctions are remedied by PMAGs when compared to mag malfunctions in IARs in the rare circumstances the automatic rifleman is bumming mags off of other Marines?

2)  Have you ever tried firing a SAW that was being magazine fed?  The M249 was already a jam-prone piece of garbage.  Having it mag fed was an absolute nightmare when using the issued USGI metal mags.

3)  You should never issue orders that you know will not be obeyed.  It degrades your authority.

But regardless of the length I’ve gone into on this matter, that isn’t what this post is about.  Rather, I’m talking about chicks, Wookies, Field Mattresses, Bag Nasties, WMs.  Under Amos the Corps has actually made a few good moves.  The most recent is that women are going to start being required to perform pullups instead of flexed-arm hangs.  The closer we bring all Marines to the same standard the better.  Word on the street is that this is a simple PR move to show that women cannot hack infantry life.  That’s possible, but I think the fact that every woman to date has dropped out of infantry school is a much better indicator.

Regardless, the Corps is doing the right thing by giving women the opportunity to go through infantry school.  I’ve gone into depth on why I think women should be allowed in the infantry, so I’ll try not to rehash the same arguments.  While I do think having women operate by the same standard as men is a good thing, the Corps still misses, because women aren’t put to the same requirements as a man — 20 pullups.  Women can score a perfect PFT with 8 pullups.

If we insist on demanding different standards, perhaps the better way to do it is to allow women into the infantry, but all infantry Marines operate from a certain standard, while ground combat units have a second set of physical requirements, and the most basic of office pogues have a third, far more lenient standard.  I want the woman in the fighting hole next to me capable of cranking out 20 pullups; I could give a damn what the admin guy can do.

Now, apparently the ACLU is getting involved in the matter and are helping 4 female vets file suit to allow women into ground combat units.  There are a few things people on each side need to understand about this:

1)  Having a helo shot down and ending up in a firefight is not what makes a grunt.  Feel free to chime in here about me being a TOW Gunner John, but being a grunt isn’t about pointing a rifle at somebody and shooting.  Being a grunt is about being cold, wet, sleep and food deprived, and putting something heavy on your back and walking.  Being a grunt is about enduring hardship.  It’s about being delirious with heat exhaustion but holding a post anyways even though all you’ve eaten is a rat-fucked MRE pound cake a hot bottle of water and are operating on 2 hours sleep.

2)  Females don’t get much respect in the military, especially amongst ground combat units.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY AREN’T IN GROUND COMBAT UNITS.  We talk about espirit de corps and the love of your brother that no woman would understand, but we do not give women the opportunity to experience that.  Then we speak of them disparagingly as walking mattresses as if their failure to understand espirit de corps makes them inferior creatures.

I’ve known of female Marines to shuck their uniform during the Marine Corps Ball in order to put on a dress.  This infuriates me to see someone care so little about the uniform and what it represents; what THEY are a part of.  But then again, how will a woman love her Corps the way I do when she never experiences what makes me love my Corps?

P.S.  200 posts and 5288 hits!

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