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The ban on women in combat was lifted in 2013, and now Defense Secretary Ash Carter has until the end of the year to decide which positions will be open to women. The Marines are asking that infantry and reconnaissance jobs be excluded.
Today, host Robin Young hears from a former Marine who has come to a different conclusion, and who believes including women in certain combat roles would be a distraction.
Interview Highlights: Chad Russell
On comments saying that women should be banned from combat
“So I think the way that the argument currently is being framed is a little bit off. I think what a lot of people in the audience probably don’t realize is that, you know, what does women in combat mean - what does that mean versus specifically barring females from the infantry specifically? So there’s a big difference, so I’d kind of like to throw that out there first.”
On the argument that women help in combat
I think females bring an equal value to the military in general, but where I think the difference is, it’s about our functionality.
“Right, I understand that. And that’s where I think it’s more a matter of value and function, meaning I don’t think it’s a matter of value. I think females bring an equal value to the military in general, but where I think the difference is, it’s about our functionality. You know, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share something that I got from an anonymous person that has served a career in the military - still active. So this is what he says: ‘The life of an infantryman is no glory. It’s strictly about staying alive and keeping each other alive while defeating the enemy. And for all those who say females are already in combat, there’s a big difference between being in a combat zone or in actual combat. Being in a combat zone or on a convoy once in a while exposed to an IED [improvised explosive device] is quite different than being in a sustained, direct action against the enemy up close and personal. There’s no comparison so please stop making it. I have killed from a distance and I have killed as close as a foot away and, more importantly, I’ve watched good Marines who were great people and had bright futures ahead of them get killed. There’s no glory in killing or being killed, not when it involves the lives of the futures of very good young people. This is not a video game where you can press reset and combat is not about equal opportunities. It’s about surviving and it’s about defeating the enemy.’ So I think that right there frames the undercurrent inside the Marine Corps infantry and where maybe a lot of these sentiments are at, at this current point.”
Are you saying a woman can't perform in combat?
“Absolutely not. Of course they could do those things, but it’s a matter of is this a necessity to do this or is this a political desire coming from an outside influence? And that’s where my biggest beef with all of this is, is that we have so many things going on in the military, why is this something that is being forced on the infantry, in my opinion.”
Do you think women won’t be safe in combat?
“That’s one aspect of it. It’s tough to get an idea of this when you’re out in the civilian world and you’re trying to understand where these riflemen, infantrymen are coming from. And since I lived it, and I did three combat tours in Iraq, and I was engaged in direct combat with the enemy on every deployment that I was on – I’ve really thought about this and tried to stay objective. It’s tough when you’re in the Marine Corps and it is all guys and you’re around all guys. However, there seems to be this push, and regarding these test results that came out, the secretary of the Navy – he is already decided. He kind of showed his hand and we kind of saw that with the Sgt. Maj. LeHew and the Marine Corps in a private Facebook post. I don’t know if you saw that or not. Actually, I have an excerpt of that if you don’t mind me sharing it. He was one of the top Marines in charge of the training, and this was a part of what he said here: ‘This was as stacked as a unit could get with the best Marines to give it 100 percent success rate as we possibly could. End result, the best women in the test as a group in regards to the infantry operations were equal or below in most all cases to the lowest 5 percent of men as a group in the test study. They are slower on all accounts and almost every technical and tactical aspect, and physically weaker in every aspect across the range of the military operation. Secretary of the Navy has stated that he has made up his mind even before the release of the results, and that the United States Marine Corps test unit will not change his mind on anything. Listen up folks, your senior leadership of this country does not want to see America overwhelmingly succeed on the battlefield. It wants to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to pursue whatever they want regardless of the outcome on national security.'”
What about those that argue women offer a softer and important side to war – reaching out to communities and speaking with them?
We’re young guys. We have a strong sexual drive and we are noticing them and going out of our way to notice them. So it does create a distraction.
“Right, and I understand that. And you know, as an attachment asset, I can see that. But there’s a big difference being exposed to an IED, right, going out and being an attachment versus being in a sustained combat roll day, after day, after day in these high stress environments. It really boils down to that bottom line of – we have a saying in the Marine Corps ‘complacency kills.’ Every deployment I was around females and my last deployment was on ship, there was females there and there was little relationships blossoming on the ship. I mean I just was like, I stayed away from that stuff, but I could see it happening, because in the air wing in the Marine Corps, you’ve got females on the ship. I’ve served three tours and most of the time I was not around females in the infantry. On deployment though, if we were around the Army base where females were, every time we were around females, I mean, the radar - beep, beep, beep, beep, beep – goes up on the guys, because we’re all, you know, pent up. We’re young guys. We have a strong sexual drive and we are noticing them and going out of our way to notice them. So it does create a distraction. I can’t imagine going through Fallujah and, you know, having a bunch of females in the platoons. I just can’t imagine it.”
- Chad Russell, Iraq war veteran and former Marine. He tweets @primepaychad.
This segment aired on October 19, 2015.