Women, Men, Combat, And The Draft

Recently the Department of Defense announced that, beginning in January, all combat jobs in the military would be open to women.  The decision means that about 220,000 combat military positions, mostly in the Marine Corps and the Army infantry and armor units, are available to female members of the military, provided they can satisfy certain gender-neutral performance standards and other qualification requirements.

women-in-combatThe last point is, I think, the most important one, because objective standards that are based upon a rational assessment of the expected needs of the job, but are blind to gender, should be the goal.  Does the recruit, regardless of their gender, have the physical strength and capabilities, eye-hand coordination, mental characteristics, and other attributes needed to be part of the squad and do the job?  If so, they should be eligible for the position.

I applaud this decision from the Obama Administration, which removes one of the last broad rules providing for differing treatment of men and women.  Of course, the performance standards for various positions will need to be carefully determined, and in some instances the objectively determined physical demands of the position — such as the need for substantial upper-body strength in certain combat roles, for example — might ultimately lead to qualification of more men than women, as happens in, say, firefighting jobs.  But they key point is that women who can meet the requirements have the opportunity to do so, without being barred by an unfair, across-the-board rule.

Much of the traditional opposition to the notion of women in combat roles, in reality, seemed to have little to do with actual physical capabilities and more to do with antique notions of sexuality and proper gender roles.  There were expressions of concern that romantic relationships might form in the foxhole that could destroy unit morale, or that men in the unit might feel so protective of women in the unit that they would forsake their training to recklessly rescue the damsel in distress.  Whether there was a factual basis for these concerns in the past is debatable, but my observation of group dynamics among younger people suggests that old-fashioned notions of appropriate gender roles don’t have much significance these days — and in any case I’m confident that tough Marine and Army drill instructors, and squad leaders, can train and discipline troops so that such concerns don’t materialize in reality.

There’s now one, last sign of unequal treatment between men and women when it comes to military service in America:  registration with the Selective Service System, and the possibility of being drafted, which is required only of men between 18 and 25.  When will this last bastion of inequality also fall to the enlightened attitudes of modern America?

The Bully Beef Express And Military Insignia On The Door

I meant to post this picture on Veterans’ Day, but forgot.  Better late than never!  t’s a photo of the door to the USO club, or a room with a similar military theme, in the Bangor, Maine Airport.

Each of the insignia represents a different military unit, and each obviously is the subject of significant unit pride.  They’re all cool, but my favorite is the “Bully Beef Express” emblem found in the upper left quadrant of the doorway.  The “Bully Beef Express” refers to the Sixth Airlift Squadron, a unit that was formed in 1933 and that got its nickname flying boiled beef to American troops in the Pacific during World War II.  The distinctive patch with the snorting bull was developed shortly after the Squadron received its nickname.

Thank You To Our Veterans

It’s November 11 — Veterans’ Day.

Thank you to all veterans for your commitment, for your dedication, and for your service.  You have manned the trenches, scrambled onto the bloody beaches, piloted the planes through anti-aircraft fire, driven the tanks, tended the grievously wounded, and done the other terrible but necessary things that have kept our country safe and free.  All Americans — and all peoples who have been freed from tyranny through your efforts — deeply appreciate the sacrifices our veterans have endured, and grieve at the losses that the families of all who have served in the military have suffered.

Freedom doesn’t come cheaply.  It is our soldiers and our veterans who have paid the steepest price for our liberty.  For that, we are forever grateful.

Buckeye Basketball On A Carrier Deck

Tonight the Ohio State men’s basketball teams kicks off its season with a game against the Marquette Golden Eagles.  The game should be especially interesting, and not just because the Buckeyes and Marquette are two big-time programs.

The added interest comes from the game’s location.  It will be played outside, on the deck of the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned aircraft carrier.  The players will have to deal with the wind, and the different sight lines, and adjust to playing in a fundamentally different setting than your normal college basketball arena.  It will be a test of the players’ focus:  can they shoot as they normally do, or will they be distracted by the carrier’s bridge superstructure, looming just behind one of the baskets?

The setting is not only novel, but also historic.  The Yorktown is a fabled ship, built in only 16 1/2 months during the heart of World War II to replace a prior Yorktown that was sunk at the Battle of Midway.  The new Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 and fought valiantly during the Pacific offensive that defeated Japan.  The Yorktown went on to serve during the Vietnam War and recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts when they returned to Earth in December 1968.  The ship was decommissioned in 1970 and was towed to Charleston, South Carolina in 1975 to become part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

I’ll be watching tonight to see how this year’s version of the basketball Buckeyes look — but also to take a gander at the Yorktown and think about the sailors who served on her and did so much for the country.  Fittingly, the proceeds from the game, called the Carrier Classic, will benefit armed forces charities.

Winning, And Saluting Our Soldiers

Yesterday the Ohio State Buckeyes manhandled the Fighting Illini, 52-22, in a game that really wasn’t that close.  Ohio State ran the ball at will, completed long pass plays, and throttled the Illinois offense as they moved to 10-0.

It also was a good example of why attending a game is a different experience than watching it on TV.  Before the game, at halftime, and during all those timeouts when TV viewers are forced to watch commercials about cars and beer, Ohio Stadium was saluting our military.

When timeouts came, recorded greetings from Buckeyes serving abroad were played on the big scoreboard, and students in the ROTC were introduced down on the field.  Before the game military members unfurled a huge flag as The Best Damn Band In The Land played the National Anthem, and then two fighter jets screamed by overhead.  And at halftime, TBDBITL played a series of songs from military movies while the band members marched into patriotic shapes and Old Glory was displayed again, at the center of a star.

TBDBITL is always wonderful, and yesterday’s show and general salute to the members of our military, presented just a few days before Veterans’ Day, was well timed for another reason — at the end of a long and sometimes bitter presidential campaign, it was nice to see something that everyone in attendance, regardless of party affiliation, could cheer wholeheartedly.

Bless Our Veterans, Their Families, And Their Sacrifices

 

The American cemetery in Normandy

Veterans’ Day is the most important federal holiday we have, because of what it means and the enormous sacrifices it commemorates.  All Americans should be deeply and forever grateful to our veterans for their service and their willingness to fight so that our great nation can remain a beacon of freedom and tolerance in the world.