Recently, 18 brave women graduated from the U.S. Army Infantry School, pioneers headed for fully gender-integrated “ground close-combat” units. Women have long served valiantly and effectively in almost every military role, but now they are tackling extremely physical combat jobs that, until recently, were designated men-only.
The Department of Defense is committed to increasing numbers of women in the ranks without delay. The commandant of the Marine Corps — considered the toughest of the armed services when it comes to physical requirements — has nonetheless set a goal: 10% of new recruits for all its jobs will be women. Military recruiters are aggressively targeting high school female athletes. Ads featuring women glamorize close-combat skills. And since all combat roles were opened to both sexes, Congress has repeatedly voted on legislation that would force women ages 18 to 26 to register for the draft, just like men.
In this push for more female recruits, it’s not at all clear that young women — or the civilian population in general — understand the unique, disproportionate health risks women face in combat roles. The dangers, which have been known for decades, will undoubtedly be exacerbated as women serve in the most physically demanding units. Although the Pentagon has published studies detailing these gender differences, no such information is readily found on the Army or Marine recruiting websites. And the neighborhood recruiter isn’t likely to fill you in, either. But avoiding hard truths isn’t a legitimate way to attract new volunteers to the military. At best, it’s manipulative; at worst, downright exploitative.