A few of years ago, when the seedling of integrating women in the infantry had been planted at about the same time I rejoined the Army, I began thinking critically about it and writing about it, mostly here on this blog. Ultimately it led to writing a three part series titled “what is the infantry” as a way of exploring whether or not it is a good idea to enact full integration. It was a strange writing experience, as I really didn’t do much research or reflection – it was mostly a stream of consciousness brain dump of what I felt at the time.
Plenty has happened since then.
While I’ve generally been in the “if she can hump the weight why not” camp, I’ve never claimed to have an absolute answer on the subject because as close as the infantry is to me (I’ve been an infantryman most of my adult life), I don’t own it. I’ve readily shared articles both for and against integration, for the readers’ consideration.
For the past couple of years, I’ve mostly retreated from the debate, mostly because it’s gotten too obnoxious, but also because I was too busy actually leading infantrymen.
The past week has seen a re-emergence of articles against the case for integration (The Best Defense, War on the Rocks), and so I thought I’d revisit the topic to see what – if anything – has changed.
If you read through the entire “what is the infantry” piece, you’ll notice I don’t really come to a firm conclusion. I lay out what I see and what others have seen, and I kind of let it sit there.
The thing that has stuck with me upon further reflection, is the infantry as a profession is about youth. Infantrymen are young – teenagers and twenty-somethings. The everyday language of the infantryman is couched in youthful bravado and to some extent, immaturity. That’s not a knock, it’s just a reality of being young.
With that, I’m also of the mind that if women were to integrate in the infantry, the infantry would be changed, if only slightly.
One of the great takeaways I got from watching the full press conference a few weeks ago at Ranger Training Brigade (RTB), was when one of the journalists asked what value the female advisors added during the process. COL Fivecoat, the RTB commander, said that the major thing they influenced was the culture of the course. That is, the female advisors who assisted the Ranger Instructors (but didn’t grade) didn’t influence the standards of the course (which remained the same), but they did have an influence on the culture of the course. If I was to take a stab at what was meant by that, I would guess that the change in culture manifested mostly in language, as that is the means in which information is communicated. Anyone who has been in and around the infantry knows what I’m talking about, and it’s thing in which I tried to nail down in part III of “what is the infantry.”
That led me to think, what then would be the effect of integrating women in the infantry? Would the culture of the infantry also be changed?
And ultimately, would that change mean anything?
I don’t get too worked up about hard to measure pseudo-benchmarks like “unit cohesion” or “unit effectiveness.” I’ve referenced the spookiness and voodoo of the infantry before in a mostly reverential way, but I’m not sure that those things are gender specific. It just takes a special person – male or female – to want to do it.
And in the end, I have a hard time believing that as an Army we will ever lose because women are a part of the infantry, and taken further, that America will fall as a result. To prevent those things seems more a function of adequate numbers, resources, and training. That is, have enough men or women to fight, bigger and better guns, and a force trained to use them. That’s how you win. It’s unlikely, in my opinion, that this republic will fall because women serve in the infantry. And if it does, then, as my 7th grade Spanish teacher would say, “tough tidly-winks.”
When I joined the Army back in 2001, I remember scrolling through the Army’s website looking at the different jobs available. I’m not from a military family and really didn’t know much about it. When I looked at infantry, I remember seeing in paranthesis next to the the word infantry, “closed to women.” I wasn’t bothered by it, but if I’m honest and think hard, I do remember having a very slight reaction of “hmm, that’s weird,” only because for something to be outright barred to an entire gender, even at the tender age of 19, seemed strange.
Months later, under the hot Fort Benning sun, I remember shouting the “Infantryman’s Creed” at the top of my lungs. It’s a thing you say at infantry school, and it’s one of the better Army creeds. It’s supposed to capture what it means to be an infantryman, and with the sole exception of the title, it is not gender-specific. It captures a belief.
Adding women to the mix changes nothing.
I am the Infantry.
I am my country’s strength in war.
Her deterrent in peace.
I am the heart of the fight…
I carry America’s faith and honor
against her enemies.
I am the Queen of Battle.
I am what my country expects me to be…
the best trained soldier in the world.
In the race for victory
I am swift, determined, and courageous,
armed with a fierce will to win.
Never will I betray my country’s trust.
Always I fight on…
through the foe,
to the objective,
to triumph over all,
If necessary, I will fight to my death.
By my steadfast courage,
I have won more than 200 years of freedom.
I yield not to weakness,
to superior odds,
for I am mentally tough, physically strong,
and morally straight.
I forsake not…
my sacred duty.
I am relentless.
I am always there,
now and forever.
I AM THE INFANTRY!