Combat-arms units that are mixed-gender perform worse than all-male units by almost every metric. This is a factual, but controversial statement. Despite the controversy, it should be kept in focus throughout any discussion of gender-integration of combat-arms units.
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It is an uncontroversial statement to say that women are valuable and productive members of society. Any reasonable person, male or female, would have to concur. The controversy arises when we begin to assign roles to women that constrain their area of productivity or societal contribution. Indeed, we need not assign anything at all in order to generate consternation; we need only assert those roles which have been considered traditional up to the present day. It may be helpful when doing so to examine why those roles came about, at least regarding our subject: women serving in combat roles by being integrated into combat-arms units. Combat Arms units in the US Army should not be coed because sex-integration negatively impacts esprit-de-corps, morale, and mission readiness.
Women have played an important part in the United States armed forces since the Revolutionary War. They have served in many roles, many of which were non-combat-arms. These roles included logistics, communications, administration, and most famously: nursing. In 2016, Department of Defense (DoD) policy changed to allow women, who comprise about 15% of the military, to be eligible to serve in combat-arms units (Task and Purpose, 2017). In order to illustrate why this policy is potentially harmful to the military’s warfighting capabilities, an honest discussion of the physical differences between the sexes is called for.
A yearlong study conducted by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) yielded confirmation of long-recognized differences between the sexes in areas that directly affect combat task performance. The study contrasted mixed-gender squads against all-male squads. One of the significant discoveries was that the mixed-gender squads were less lethal than their counterparts. This was due to mixed-gender squads performing worse with various weapons-systems typical to an infantry team (M4, M249, M203). These squads not only scored lower in basic marksmanship; they moved slower and generally performed worse in combat drills that featured tactical movement with the afore-mentioned weapons (Peralta, 2015). The females generally had a more difficult time moving with the weapons and associated gear required for the combat infantry mission.
A potential explanation for these difficulties lies in the physical differences between the sexes. According to the Marine Corps study; females have a higher percentage of body fat: 24% for females and 20% for males. On average, females possess 15% less anaerobic capacity, and 10% less aerobic capacity than males. This means that the top 10% of female overlapped with the bottom 50% of males.
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