Women can’t fight. So said James Webb, who is now a Presidential candidate from the Democratic Party. Should he move from the outer-orbit of potential nominees and actually threaten for the nod, someone is going to remind the general public of his very firmly stated position. It won’t matter that he said it when Atari was hip. Such words have incredible staying power, and there is no statute of limitations on hand-wringing over hurt feelings.
Speaking of hurt feelings, I owned a set of them myself on account of the fact that James Webb made me stand at attention for three hours in a dress uniform in the stifling Maryland heat and humidity while he was sworn in as Secretary of the Navy. Not even Lee Greenwood, who in person belted out his famous tune “I’m proud to be an American” for all of us to enjoy, could make me feel better about my predicament. I’ll tell you who was not proud to be an American for those three hours – the girl next to me who took a knee exactly every 15 minutes. She was a nice young lady; I even remember her name. The name doesn’t matter, nor does the fact that she was a female. I just felt like sharing details because it’s been a while.
On the eve of celebrating the Ranger graduation of two female Soldiers, a ceremony that will reportedly be attended by none less than our Commander-in-Chief (insert cheapshot about ineffective policies giving way to becoming the visible champion of social change), the Chief of Naval Operations announced that Navy Special Warfare will no longer be a pure bastion of testosterone. I would stop short of calling it a major policy announcement. There are regulations to re-write and a seemingly endless supply of tasks that must be accomplished before this actually happens. But it will happen. There is no stopping it, and ADM Greenert knows that, which is why he kicked the door open. Hisself on the way out the door, I might add. There is a 0.0-percent chance that anyone else is going to come along and reverse course. Pigs will fly the day you hear these words at a Senate confirmation hearing: “The previous CNO was wrong. This is a bad idea. We’re not opening the SEAL Teams to women.”
Whatever you think of this “decision”, don’t delude yourself into thinking it was a decision in the literal sense. Right or wrong, these were marching orders. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, whom I like because he never made me stand at attention for three hours, is on the record.
Mabus announced a plan to boost the sea service’s enlisted female recruitment efforts to at least 25 percent of all accessions during a mid-May speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The move, he said, will help attract, recruit and retain women in communities in which they are underrepresented.
“[We] need more women in the Navy and Marine Corps; not simply to have more women, but because a more diverse force is a stronger force,” Mabus told an auditorium of midshipmen.
Vice CNO Admiral Michelle Howard is on the record.
We probably ought to get to at least 25 percent women on every unit. When we went gender neutral in our detailing, we said, ‘You’re quartermaster, you go here. There’s a billet and bunk for you. You go there.’
RADM Brian Losey, head of the Navy Special Warfare Command in lovely Coronado CA, is also on the record. Although it’s not a quote, you’ll get the idea.
The push to integrate the storied SEAL brotherhood is coming on the heels of a comprehensive review led by Losey, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, that recommended women be allowed under the same exacting standards required of male candidates. Final approval is still pending. The Army and Air Force are also moving to open all combat jobs to women, according to officials who spoke to the Associated Press. It’s believed the Marine Corps may seek to keep its ground combat jobs, including the infantry, male-only.
He is the one getting credit for paving the way, and I’m willing to wager that’s not necessarily credit he wants. Just be assured that he was never asked, as you are being led to believe, whether or not this is in the best interest of the service or the SEAL community. Instead, he was tasked thusly: “Brian, show me how we are going to make this work. Best Regards….”
It’s a shame, really. This is a topic worthy of meaningful and carefully considered discussion. It doesn’t happen, because everyone is terrified of saying the wrong thing. It reminds me of Shelby Steele’s book The Content of our Character. In it, Shelby (an African-American) is having a discussion on race with a white friend. The discussion got mildly uncomfortable, so they bailed. Shelby was upset that they didn’t gut it out and finish the discussion. I’m with you, Shelby.
Why doesn’t this discussion happen? Because the guys with really thick stripes on the sleeves of their Service Dress Blues don’t want to flush 30+ years of work with a single, poorly-timed utterance. The anonymity of the internet is no better. Positive dialogue never has a chance to root because the cavemen scurry to one side of the dodgeball court while the liberal progressives scurry to the other. The NRA vs. the ACLU. Awesome.
My hope is that the members of this ready room can do better than that. That we can have a discussion without labels and name-calling. Let’s try.
I firmly believe that many of these discussions are misguided. We grab the low-hanging fruit and immediately begin shaking our fists. We are drawn to debates about physical standards and who pees where. Fair enough. But that’s akin to beginning the weaponeering process by first determining the altitude and dive angle for releasing your 500 lb proximity-fuzed bomb. Did you pause to consider whether or not that particular bomb is even the right weapon? What if the target doesn’t even require a bomb?
The professional strategist has an entirely different perspective. Don’t ask what it is you want to do. Ask what it is you want to accomplish. So then, what are we trying to accomplish? Is it…
- To provide equal opportunity to both genders in every designator / warfare area. OR
- To provide the best possible fighting force.
Can it be both?
I missed you, too.