There are articles which to be accepted today must be written only by women or men who have not served in America's military. Unfortunately, being born a male, and having served decades ago as a navy frogman, I fit neither category. In spite of that horrendous drawback, the topic just seems too important to ignore simply because I lack the qualifications. I am speaking of commentary on the recommendations recently given by an eleven person panel that studied in-depth the integration of women into our armed forces. The panel, composed of six women and five men, conducted nearly two thousand interviews with active duty personnel at seventeen sites. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, a former senator and woman of uncompromising integrity, chaired it.

The study arrived at several recommendations, of which perhaps the most controversial was the segregation of males and females through basic training, and housing them in separate barracks during that period. The panel's findings will be circulated to our senior military officers for their concurrence or opposition. If there is general agreement, they will be adopted and implemented.

From what I have read of the panel's suggested changes, they all make sense, would improve the quality of basic training, and I believe they should be incorporated as standard procedure in our armed forces.

Not surprisingly, some of the media have responded indignantly to the panel's conclusions. Titles of "About Face," and "Retrenchment," were applied to its findings. It seems to me the media are more concerned about their agenda of gender equalization in our armed forces than they are about insuring that America has a military capable of successfully defending the country.

Faced with the complexity of modern life in all its ambiguities, few moral absolutes, a relative lack of theological imperatives, and the emphasis on expediency over truth, conscience and honor, we often opt for compromise. Sometimes that just doesn't work. Let me make the matter clear. It is wrong to forget the purpose of the military is to defend America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Our priority never was, and never should be, to promote equal opportunity for men and women in our armed services. Our priority was, and should be, to find the surest and least expensive means to create and sustain a military that is the best trained and best equipped in the world. Whatever it takes to obtain that kind of military organization should be implemented. All other goals, and there can be many, are incidental.

To draw back and add a little historical perspective, having women in America's military is nothing new. WACS, WAVES, WAFS, and SPARS served in WWII. They were given non-combatant, logistical billets in order to free men for combat or combat theater duty. They were added as an augmenting force, and they did their job well.

Most of the men like myself who object to women attempting to obtain full equality in America's military do so because they feel introducing women across the board will adversely affect military readiness. Training them as physical equals is impossible, because the male in our species is physically much stronger than the female. I am not concerned with the exceptional woman who may be stronger than the average man, nor the exceptional man who may be weaker than the average woman. Such things exist, but they are rare. I can assure everyone from the president on down that, having years ago completed frogman training, we were compelled to exert ourselves fully. Most of the men did not complete it, and only a most unusual woman might have done so. Had we admitted women to the training class and attempted to insure that a representative number completed training, almost all the men entering BUDS would also have made it through. The purpose of training, which was to allow only the most tenacious and capable of the men to graduate, would have been totally defeated. I am not saying that to be sexist or to denigrate women, but it is true. If it is an unpleasant and politically incorrect truth, why then I answer that during wartime we live in an unpleasant and politically incorrect world. And let me repeat, the real purpose of our military is to keep us out of wars and, when involved, to win them.

To elaborate on the panel's findings, admitting women into a coed basic training format diminishes the degree of physical conditioning imposed on all trainees. A combat army is not a social club. Pulling a trigger doesn't take strength: carrying the gun and getting to where it must be fired does. It can be grueling, physically demanding, exhausting work. Men who take basic training with women, men who will later do the fighting, never find out just how much punishment they can endure and still function effectively. They do not learn the most important lesson: their own physical resilliency and capability under great stress. Combat troops had better be tough warriors who are sure they can totally rely on their comrades and believe their own capabilities are limitless. If not, they will lose battles. America cannot afford to do that.

Sam Orr
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)