Retiring Marine commander worried that women in combat roles will dilute standards

The New York Post has an interview this week with someone weighing in on the whole women in combat question and it’s a person who should know a thing or two about the subject. Gen. John Kelly is a Marine and he’s the retiring head of the U.S. Southern Command. He’s been knocking around the service through a couple or three wars now and his greatest fear seems to deal less with the actual capabilities of any ladies volunteering to serve on the front lines and much more with the fickle and dishonest nature of our politicians.


Gen. John Kelly, USMC, is retiring after more than four decades as an active-duty Marine. His “greatest fear,” he says, is that the vast “equal opportunity” pressure for women in combat roles will lead the Pentagon to water down standards…

The reasons are obvious: On average, the two sexes simply have different physical virtues. Men will dominate when it comes to upper-body strength, which is generally vital in combat roles. And [Defense Secretary Ash] Carter has vowed not to alter the high standards for those roles.

But Kelly doubts that will last: “Whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now…the question will be asked whether we’ve [truly] let women into these other roles.” Ideologues who don’t see the results they want will ask, “Why aren’t [women] staying in those roles? Why aren’t they advancing as infantry people?”

As supporting evidence, the article goes on to note that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (who is in charge of the Marines at the cabinet level) already decided to override the recommendations of the Corps following several years of trials and study, telling them to get ready to fully integrate female riflemen on the front line in a period of only two weeks. Given the career civilian status of Mabus that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the politicians when it comes to making informed decisions.

The editorial draws a comparison to the watering down of standards at the New York City Fire Department in recent years after a similar gender equity policy was put in place.


The Fire Department of New York has bitter experience with the same drill. The Post runs regular exposés of the efforts to bend (already lowered) FDNY standards with an eye to a “better” gender balance.

Look, we admire the heck out of a woman who keeps trying even after she’s failed a key FDNY physical test six times. But it’s shocking to see her become a firefighter without ever passing.

I wrote about that case back in May of last year. There are less than fifty women in the NYFD (which is a massive organization) and that’s primarily because the physical standards to pass their training regimen are so grueling. (Not on the same level as Marine boot camp, mind you, but pretty rough nonetheless.) That story dealt with the tale of Rebecca Wax.

Rebecca Wax, 33, is set to graduate Tuesday from the Fire Academy without passing the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply, an insider has revealed.

“They’re going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard,” said the insider, who is familiar with the training.

The training program she failed involved climbing in full gear while carrying heavy equipment, rescuing victims in zero visibility, breaking down doors, and doing it all while breathing oxygen from a tank on a limited timer. Sounds like just the sort of thing that a firefighter might have to do in an emergency situation, no? But once the politicians got involved and noticed that not enough women were able to complete the course, they started making exceptions. Is that really the sort of precedent you want to set for our riflemen on the front line going up against the Taliban?


General Kelly has legitimate grounds to be concerned because he’s spent enough time dealing with politicians to know that they can’t always be trusted in military matters. It would be nice if the Secretary of the Navy could slow his roll a bit and perhaps listen to somebody with the experience to know what he’s talking about.


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