Written By Guest Contributor Julie Pulley:
Massive change is afoot for a significant portion of the US population, but most remain blissfully unaware. Why are these fundamental transformations all but slipping under the American public’s radar? Secretary of the Army John McHugh spoke at this month’s annual meeting of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), saying, “If we find ourselves as a military at large where men and women have equal opportunity, as I happen to believe they should…then ultimately the question of extending the Selective Service requirements to women…will at least have to be discussed.” Our nation is hurtling toward unprecedented military and social change in two short months, yet the majority of media outlets are silent.
The silence is especially alarming because change of this magnitude should be preceded by open debate and vast public input. Demonizing of opposition and silencing of viewpoints is not helpful. The opinion of the career infantryman is just as valid as that of the feminist. The opinions of Marine Capt. Lauren Serrano who wrote, “Why Women Do Not Belong in the U.S. Infantry” are as valuable as those voiced by the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy, whose collective years of active military service total two. Naval Postgraduate School Professor Anna Simons addressed the silencing of opinions in her article, “Women in Ground Combat Units: Where’s the Data?” The public must weigh pros and cons, reviewing unbiased, factual data. We cannot expect to make a prudent decision with one side of the debate being suppressed.
We must also delay the January 2016 deadline for integration of women into all branches, as this directly drives mandating women to register for the Selective Service. Since the news media has largely failed its mission to bring such a cultural nuclear bomb to the public’s attention, more time is needed for the public to consider all aspects of the fallout. What is the huge rush, anyway? One more year of women being excluded from Infantry or Armor jobs will not affect the 92.5% of military women who weren’t interested in those branches as of 2013. Alternately, opening those branches will have far-reaching consequences both for all women, both military and civilian. The Associated Press reported that of 30,000 Army women respondents to the Army’s 2013 survey, only about 7.5% were interested in closed-to-women jobs in Special Operations, Infantry, Combat Engineers, Field Artillery, and Armor Branches. That percentage is likely much lower, now, with the opening of Special Operations pilot and crew positions and Combat Engineers positions.
As Mr. McHugh pointed out, lifting the last few bans on closed combat positions will likely impact women’s Selective Service obligations. Those in favor of lifting the restrictions either haven’t considered or have no problem requiring women to register for the Selective Service. Many argue there hasn’t been a draft since Vietnam and can’t imagine history repeating itself. I remember a conversation with my mother sometime in early 2001. My sister had just received her appointment to West Point. I was a newly minted second lieutenant. My brother was in his third year at West Point. Mother was uneasy about having all three children in the military. I dismissed her apprehension saying, “Mum, it’s not like there’s going to be another Vietnam.” Within a few months, the World Trade Center was a heap of rubble. Within 18 months, I was in Afghanistan. My parents would spend seven years with at least one of us deployed for some portion of each year. While I am in no way comparing the Vietnam War to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, I learned to “never say never”. Our current global situation isn’t exactly what I’d call stable or peaceful.
How will draft boards handle women? Will the government set up round-the-clock public care facilities for draftees’ children or will parents be exempted? Will childless draftees challenge exemptions of those with children? Will the government assume authority to mandate birth control, or, God-forbid, pregnancy terminations? What’s the plan for orphans? Over 58,000 men were killed in Vietnam, after all. Will men demand women be drafted into historically high mortality positions at an equal rate? It’s one thing to draft women into support roles. Drafting them into Infantry and Armor jobs is another matter. The public must understand that the military generally uses manpower as needed, with little regard for individual willingness or ability. In 1999, quite a few of my male West Point classmates were forced-branched as infantry officers. Others were involuntarily branch-detailed infantry. Citizens need to know the answers to such questions before, not after, laws are changed.
Historically, the draft has been dodged by elitists. President Obama said in a 2007 debate, “I think that if women are registered for service…I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they’ve got obligations to this great country as well as boys do,” Does anyone believe the President would allow his daughters to be drafted into the Infantry? They don’t even attend public school! I predict daughters of those responsible for driving Selective Service mandates will avoid conscription.
How will women draftees be affected by war? For one thing, they will likely suffer at an inflated rate from post-traumatic stress disorders. Research published by the American Psychological Association found “Males experience more traumatic events on average than do females, yet females are more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a review of 25 years of research…” . We know many fathers of baby boomers grappled with PTSD. Imagine the far-reaching effects of just as many afflicted mothers.
Consider, also, the physical aftermath of war. On average, men are bigger and stronger than women. Israeli Defense Force Colonel Raz Sagi claims that women in the IDF suffer injury at a disproportionally higher rate. He also alleges a massive cover-up by the Israeli Defense Force. According to research published in the Journal of Endocrinology, infertility may also be a life-altering disability of women subjected to the physical rigors of currently restricted branches. Physical damage is often irreversible. Ask any Infantryman.
Proponents of opening all restricted jobs and drafting women offer up a solution of branch-specific qualification tests. This strategy presents another problem, however. What about all those service members serving in jobs they don’t like? Forgive my suspicions that some of my company’s disgruntled parachute riggers would’ve welcomed the opportunity to obtain a less-rigorous assignment just by throwing a test. In a draft scenario, I’d wager many draftees would happily fail a test to avoid an Infantry rifleman assignment. I wonder how many draftees would’ve passed an infantry physical qualification test in 1970.
Once our government opens all military positions to women January 1, 2016 and inevitably imposes Selective Service requirements on women, reversal is unlikely. We as a nation must take pause to have honest conversations where all facts, data, and opinions are considered.