On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, history was made, and if you’ll indulge me, I’ll tell you why it makes me sad. Two women passed Ranger school, which makes them the Army’s version of the previously mythical GI Jane. While I salute the fact that they made it through, and cannot imagine the rigors through which they passed, I cannot celebrate. The two women are officers, and are to be commended as well as thanked in advance for their service. Their names are Captain Kristen Griest, and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver, and their families have described them as “extraordinary soldiers.” I am sure they are. So, why do I sound so sour about this?
It is because while I was in Iraq, I talked at length with soldiers, some of whom were Rangers, who objected to the idea, and it was not because they hated women. Rather, it was because they cared about them. To understand this is to try to understand the dynamics of combat, and by that I mean specifically a ground offensive.
Prior to soldiers literally occupying the physical trenches, they develop a system of relationships that is known as “battle buddies.” That person could roughly be compared to police officers who are partners. They know each other inside and out, their weaknesses, strengths, and are sworn to watch each other’s “six,” that is, their back. In the Army, the phrase they use when they are moving on foot into battle is, “Buddy set, buddy moving.”
Men will tell you that there is simply a different dynamic between guys when they are protecting each other, than when they are protecting women. A man instinctively will put himself in front of a woman in order to protect her, and he will instinctively run into danger in order to free his buddy to “get the job done.” There are those who would argue that this is not instinctive, it is rather learned behavior, and therefore, in their opinion, can be unlearned. But, there is something that will not ever be unlearned, and that is the power of sexual tension, especially in a combat zone.
At the end of the day, when they all come back from seeing and doing God knows what in order to keep us safe, to ask soldiers of opposite genders to sleep in the same tent as though they are androgynous is sheer madness. I don’t want to think about how tough it would be for either gender, married or single.
While I am not privy to what the details of the training requirements are for Rangers, and I most sincerely hope that they were not lowered for the women due to the fact that on average a man has 45% more upper body strength than a woman. Even that difference in strength is not the point.
I have seen women contribute significantly to a war effort. I don’t even have an objection to them fighting from the sky. But if you think guys are going to be at the top of their game wondering for a split second if their female battle buddy can kick in the door as they follow, that split second is one that could cost everyone their life. And that is why I am not celebrating the sight of a female Ranger with a shaved head, who will receive her pin today at Ft. Benning.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner