During a recent trip to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with 15 junior officers at the Marine Infantry School. He asked them about President Obama’s plans to assign women to Army and Marine infantry battalions, Special Operations Forces, and other “tip of the spear” fighting teams that conduct combat assaults.
According to the New York Times, Hagel got an earful. Staff sergeants worried that if women were assigned to combat, the high standards of the Marine Corps would have to be lowered, “family lives would suffer,” and rates of sexual assault and harassment would increase. When Secretary Hagel asked whether it was right to deny the opportunity to a woman who wants to join, a fearless captain replied, “I haven’t met a female Marine who is standing up and shouting, ‘I want to be infantry.’”
This must have been a shock, since the 15 Marines speaking to Hagel were not men; they were women. Similar opposition was registered when Military Times recently conducted an online survey asking active-duty female readers whether they would take a land-combat position if it were offered. Only 13 percent of the military women said yes, 9 percent weren’t sure, and a whopping 77 percent said no, they would not take a combat job.
Secretary Hagel and the Obama administration nevertheless are pushing forward with incremental plans to revoke all of women’s combat exemptions by January 2016. Once women are eligible for direct ground combat, federal courts are likely to force women into Selective Service registration and a possible future draft.
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