Women Rangers Could Be the Wave of the Future, or Not
As a retired Army officer, I can appreciate Stephen Kilcullen’s position (“Women Don’t Belong in Ranger School,” op-ed, June 13). However, as the father of a daughter currently serving, I disagree. My daughter has completed two Iraq tours in support of special operations forces. When deployed, her military specialty and training have placed her in harms way each time. She earned enough respect to be asked back.
I suspect her level of physical fitness and warrior spirit could kick many a man’s behind, if push came to shove. As a three-war vet, I’d be happy to take her along with me and be confident she would hold her own.
I say, give the women a chance. Don’t lower the standard or make special considerations, but give them their shot at it. They either cut it on their own or they’re out. They bring talent to the game that a man can’t.
Besides, a big ole Ranger like Mr. Kilcullen shouldn’t be afraid of some little girl in pigtails. Nothing to lose but your pride, son.
Some years ago when I was serving as the assistant vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, I hosted a luncheon for a very senior Indian general officer. The assistant secretary of the Air Force for personnel asked to be included in the luncheon. She was an effective advocate for enhancing the role of women in the armed forces. She asked our guest why the Indian armed forces didn’t permit women to serve in all units in assignments for which they were as well qualified as men.
Our guest was a graduate of Sandhurst (the British West Point) and was very articulate. His response is worth repeating today. He said, “Madam, I agree with your premise that many women are as well qualified as men to perform the required military tasks. In fact some women are better qualified than most men. But the policy has little to do with women and everything to do with men. As long as there are mothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts, men will act foolishly around women. Mixing them together in the same military unit endangers the social cohesiveness of the unit and its combat effectiveness especially under the stress of combat.”
Howard M. Fish
Lt. Gen. USAF (Ret.)
There is not one sentence in Mr. Kilcullen’s piece that factually supports any of his assertions. While he tries to describe the Rangers’ “ethos and culture,” he never even attempts to explain how women would erode it. Another premise he depends on without support is that women just aren’t capable of the same level of sacrifice as men. Ha! Where is his evidence that women couldn’t meet the physical challenges of Ranger School? While I concede that most women could not, my guess is that most men could not either. For the women who can, however few (but I am confident there are “young, smart” women soldiers out there who can), what is his reasoning for excluding them? He supplies none.
His suggestion that Ranger School isn’t about improving career prospects is also laughable. My personal experience with those who seek to join elite divisions of the military suggests that their goals include career development.
The leadership mind-set, tactical skills and strategic thinking that Mr. Kilcullen presents as the rationale for continuing to exclude women are precisely the reasons women should be admitted.
They too want to get the toughest jobs done. And like their male counterparts there are young women motivated by ideals much bigger than themselves. In fact, women historically have tended to bury their egos in pursuit of goals that benefit the greater good.
There is an untapped talent pool of women who want to serve their country at the highest levels, yet archaic gender rules exclude them from such venerable institutions as Ranger School. Keeping the elite training echelons of the military exclusively male, just for the sake of keeping them male as Mr. Kilcullen suggests, isn’t reason enough to protect the status quo.
Is a woman less attracted to an organization defined by excellence and selflessness? Does the inclusion of women in an organization diminish its excellence or commitment to selflessness? It was these characteristics that attracted me to the United States Military Academy. Did the academy’s commitment to excellence and selflessness diminish the day that women were admitted?
A debate on the merits of women attending Ranger School should consist of something more substantive than the same sexist arguments that have been offered since 1978 when women were fully integrated into the Army.
Emily A. Kemp
USMA, Class of 1999
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