The United States Marine Corps has taken a small step into officially integrating women into the front lines of combat. Plenty of female soldiers reported finding themselves fighting alongside their male peers in an unofficial capacity during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, but women still haven’t been legitimately brought in to the infantry yet. But the Marines seemed to be on their way to changing that. They started allowing women into the Infantry Officer Course, which is a huge first step to equal participation for men and women in the Armed Services.
However, one Marine is nervous that the decision to allow women to fight in the front lines of combat is being influenced by women who haven’t actually served in the military recently, and therefore are unable to understand the physical toll of combat and how it would effect women. In a straight-forward piece for the Marine Corps Gazette, Captain Katie Petronio argues that females simply are made differently from men, and so we can’t expect their bodies to respond to long-term time on the front lines like men do. She explains,
“In the end, my main concern is not whether women are capable of conducting combat operations, as we have already proven that we can hold our own in some very difficult combat situations; instead, my main concern is a question of longevity. Can women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical issues that go along with integration?”
Can women handle the long-term pressure? Captain Petronio believes they can’t. And for her proof, she uses her own experience as a Marine. She entered the service at 5’3”, able to squat 200 lbs and bench press 145 lbs. She completed OCS (Officer Candidates School) ranked 4 out of 52 candidates. She was obviously an extremely fit and strong woman. However, her experience with the Marines has changed both her body and her outlook.
“Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.”
Now, I have to say, I have never been a member of the Armed Forces in any capacity. I do not have firsthand experience of the extreme conditions and unimaginable physical toll that Captain Petronio went through. She has all my gratitude for the service she gave to this country. I don’t want to belittle or marginalize her experience or opinion at all. I have the utmost respect for the members of our military.
I guess I just read her piece and felt like it was unfair for one woman to say that every female Marine would encounter the same problems she did. It seemed unfair for her to declare in her headline that the sexes “aren’t created equal” based solely on her own experience. While I realize that I haven’t gone through her ordeal, I don’t think we can assume that every woman handles physical stress and pressure the same way. Some women’s bodies breeze through childbirth. Others are wrecked by it. That doesn’t the latter group the right to say that no one can handle childbirth.
Human bodies are all different. And yes, some of them are not made to serve in the infantry division of the Marines. I just don’t think that gender should be the reason that a person is denied. If they’re not physically capable, of course we shouldn’t shove them through in the name of diversity. But women should be given the opportunity to prove themselves.