More women want to join the infantry than you think

A week ago, I wrote a blog post about the USMC postponing rules for women doing pull-ups

The blog post created a fair amount of discussion, as I expected, about women serving in the infantry.

One thought I’ve had about women serving in the infantry is that not many would actually even want to do so. Or, certainly not after they’ve completed MCT. Heck, I’m not sure I would have wanted to be in the infantry had I truly known how bad it would have sucked most of the time…

But it turns out that I might have been mistaken to think more women wouldn’t want to have served. Frankly, it’s arguably a bit of a sexist idea I’ve had, and if we’re honest, it’s one that I’ve seen many other men state, as well.

So, after getting a comment that helped change my view, I asked the female Marine if I could quote her on it so that men who once thought as I did — that only a few women would even want to serve in the infantry — could see a different perspective we’re likely not seeing.

Here, then, are the thoughts of Sgt. Cortney Kangas, who served in the Corps from Dec 99 to Oct 07. Her MOS was admin (0121).

Sgt. Cortney Kangas: I think that there are plenty of women that serve that would still want to be in the infantry. The infantry is what the Marine Corps is all about and nobody ever goes to work in the morning thinking ‘Oh yeah, time to be a killer and slay this unit diary!’ Marines want to blow things up and have people think that they eat babies. If any of us wanted to go have a soft job we would have joined the Army.

It’s not just the fact that we can’t do certain jobs that is unfair or frustrating to a lot of women. It’s the fact that you can go to work everyday looking like you walked out of a recruiting poster, do well at your job, shoot expert and score great on your PFT and some terminal Lance Corporal, Motor T guy on weight control will tell you that you only got promoted because the SgtMaj thinks you are hot. That kind of stuff can get to you and bring you down.

I personally never wanted to be a grunt because they run so much. I hate running and all that running with packs in boots and utes looked miserable. I would have, however, signed up for a job where I could throw some weights around and shoot machine guns all day.

Thoughts, anyone?

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. If you enjoy fast-paced books, you just might like my works. “Sold Out” tracks the life of a legendary Marine Sniper after a CIA unit decides to kill him for reasons of national security. “Soldier On” follows the lives of several German soldiers in a depleted infantry company trying to survive the final, miserable months of World War II. And, “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” tells the uphill fight a young deputy faces after surviving three years of war only to find himself in the sights of a mighty cattle baron.

12 Comments

Filed under Marine Corps, National security

12 responses to “More women want to join the infantry than you think

  1. Funny about the Army. When I joined the Army, I enlisted as Airborne with several buddies, but all of us had a profile, so they slapped us in the 9th Infantry Division. What was the story behind that, pray tell? Believe me, the 9th Infantry wasn’t soft (lol). But today I thank the Lord for keeping me out of Airborne. I’m sure he knew I preferred to walk (and run) instead of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes (G). My only major disagreement with women on the Front Lines, is can they handle the mental stress, and before you say yes, please consider what combat does to the mind. Yes, women can handle weapons, and most things men can do, but even men don’t always handle combat situations constantly without some mental breakdowns. Okay, I told you this subject usually gets me in deep stuff (sigh). I was a SSgt in Vietnam, and I’m glad we didn’t have women in combat at the time. Nurses came home with problems just like the men, but it was the men out in the jungle facing the VC. Okay, I’ll sneak out the door now before some women get hold of me. Sorry ladies.

  2. Jim Stelling

    First of all: I have seen several ladies promoted to SSgt and GySgt much faster than men in the same occupational field (most were very attractive).
    There might be some openings for instructors and coaches for most ranges, be it rifle or hand grenades or whatever, but they should be qualified experts. However, if you can’t run and hump the hills, it would be very expensive to chopper the ladies into a night defensive position to man (lady) the lines at night, let alone putting a lot of pilots and other people at risk. I have heard some very rough talk among some women and they might be able to put up with the jokes and ridicule but I pesonaly do not approve of bad lady language. I also wonder about personal hygene. Isreal gave up on women in their armed forces because it didn’t work there all though they still work with police forces. The muslims have recruited a few but they always blow them selves up before they attain the rank of general.
    How about sending me a comment from a former lady DI? Maybe I could gain some new insights.

  3. I apologize for the Army joke. There are a lot of great people in every branch of service that fill some tough jobs.

    Let me say this, there should not be different standards for women than there are for men if a woman wants to join the infantry. They should be able to keep up with the men and carry their own gear if they think that they are capable of having the job. Nobody is asking for special helicopter deliveries of female infantry. The original post that I responded to was about the Marine Corps delay in changing the requirements for having women do pull ups and I stated that women should indeed be expected to pull ups and that there was no reason that they couldn’t. As far as whether or not a woman would be able to face the mental challenges, you never know what someone is capable of enduring until they are faced with that stress. We don’t have women in the infantry but they are in war and some of them die for their country whether anyone likes it or not. Part of my job at my second duty station was to perform military funeral honors and it was no easier for anyone in my unit to bury a young male Marine killed in Iraq or Afghanistan than it was to bury a young female Marine also killed in action.

    I don’t know what to say about the “bad lady language.” That made me giggle. I find that if you carry yourself with professionalism and self respect people will generally treat you with professionalism and respect.

    I never had any desire to be in the infantry but there are some women out there who would be willing to do it. And any young man or woman who chooses to volunteer to serve his or her country deserves respect, especially at a time in our culture where it is much more popular to run around with a sense of entitlement than it is to serve others and work hard. I don’t see the point in bashing one gender for entering the service when their reasons for doing so are exactly the same as the other gender.

  4. Oh, I got a kick out of the Army joke. Believe me, in 1978 there were a lot of us wishing we had joined the Marines instead of the Army (G). Remember Carter’s failure to rescue the hostages in Iran? The Army’s training was so poor at that time, we knew how bad the Army had sunk. Yes, in Vietnam, you didn’t have to be in the jungle to die. The VC targeted the military bases with rockets and mortars, and were gone before we could zero in on their locations. Choppers went down with nurses on board also. Women died without having to face the enemy. I just feel that men are more capable of handling combat situations under fire. I may be wrong, but I hope women don’t have to fight in combat. But if they want to be in the Infantry, and assigned combat positions, I certainly wouldn’t stand in their way, regardless of how I might feel.

    • A Sergeant Major I served under said that drug use was pretty rampant in the Marine Corps in the late 70’s so the Army wasn’t the only branch with problems during that time period.

      I don’t usually get involved in these kinds of arguments but Stan just asked me if I really thought that there were women who truly wanted to be in the infantry despite the hard life. I think there are some. This war has changed how we fight and how we use our forces. The bad guys tell us that we can’t allow men to search women for religious and cultural reasons, yet they use their women to smuggle weapons and as suicide bombers so it made sense to send out our women to get around that and prevent more of our guys dying. We all learn to shoot and how to react defensively but if you had women trained the way that the grunts train both physically and in infantry tactics I think it would be a huge asset, even if they never do fill the 0311 MOS.

  5. Chris Scaife

    Here we go, I was a grunt who served a few tours in the more recent wars. Here’s my perspective. We didn’t do anything the ladies couldn’t. Women can set head space and time on a ma deuce. Women can pull triggers. Women can drag a body or firemans carry a fallen brother. I’ve seen it. Most guys who refuse women in combat these days are honestly hiding inferiority complexes or they were trying to fit in and denying their sexuality. Let’s be real here. What’s the Vietnamese guy in your platoon weigh? What’s his height? Doesn’t he have to hold on to your pack in a hump to keep up? Great guys, but they are the same size as small women and they get to do it. Past generations, I get your points, no one wants to see your daughters come home in body bags. But it’s happening, and it’s happening a lot. Combat doesn’t require Arnold Swarzenneger to make it happen. It’s all mental. Ladies can endure some serious shit, Just like men. Give them a chance. And as an aside, Isreal still has full on female infantry units. Check the facts. So do the Russians. In fact, during WWII, the hardest of hard ass wars, female russian snipers were slaying Nazi ass all around Stalingrad. Facts are facts boys, like it or not.

  6. Chris Scaife

    Oh yeah, main point. Tons of ladies would want the infantry. I’m a welder now. You know how many women want to do that all day? I’m not talking about regular welder either. Nuclear welder, on submarines and aircraft carriers. Big shit. I remember my ex was telling me how devastated she was when she found out her gender stopped her from being a navy seal. Women want the same stuff as us. Just a cultural change thing or whatever, but back to WWII, women took over the work force when the men were away. They had a very difficult time giving it back when the men came back. Slowly women began to get away from home life and now our country is full of two parent working homes. Women want what they want. Cant control that. Even if it’s straight up horrible, I’m eating soggy rain filled MRE’s with no new socks and I can smell my own stink grunt life. They want to experience it too.

  7. Thanks for everyone’s comments. This is definitely a complicated issue and there are a lot of passionate people on both sides of the issue. And change is always hard, but it sure seems to be well on its way to happening, probably regardless of what any of us thinks. Anyway, it’s going to be an interesting issue to follow, on all fronts. That is, how it progresses, how it’s implemented, and how the initial women hold up. So far, they seem to be struggling.

    But I’m a huge believer in competition, and in standards. Both make a country, or a corporation, or a unit great. And girls these days aren’t as likely to be raised playing with dolls and learning how to set a table. There are some serious athletes out there playing soccer and all manner of sports. And some of these women would rather be in the woods hunting on the weekend than doing whatever it is most of their friends are doing.

    Set the standards high and set up some serious competition. And once you’re in, no bitching if someone in your squad is harassing you. Go kick his ass and and shut him up instead of taking it up the chain, same as little guys like me had to do.

    That’s how you earn respect, and let me tell you, I’ve seen plenty of women in my martial arts ventures who can kick the shit out of most guys. They’re out there. It’s a changing world, for sure, and I just don’t see this momentum stopping.

    (And Chris, thanks so much for your comments. I’m not sure I remember seeing you here before, but thanks for stopping by. And thank you for your service, brother.)

    • Chris Scaife

      Sgt. Christopher Scaife… Sgt. Kangas’s brother…

      • Nice to meet you, brother. And remind me never to piss me her off since if I do I’ll have to deal with her, plus her husband and you!

        Sheesh. Not even I, in all my cancerous-like small man’s syndrome, thinks I can take down three Marines at the same time! : )

  8. One more comment on this subject, and I’ll be through. This isn’t an argument for or against, just a comment. History has recorded many warrior queens in our past, so women have long been able to achieve the same standards as men. As for women on the front lines (so to speak) in Vietnam. At the time, I would hate to think what would have happened to a woman in the jungle with a bunch of soldiers. There were enough problems as it was, without supervisors having to protect a woman from a bunch of out-of-control young men. As to the subject of small men, if they weren’t capable to doing the job, they would not have been there. And many did not make it, for sure. The Army weeded out those who were not able to carry their load, and I would hope the same rule will apply to women. Let’s not accept the change just because they are women, but that they can perform their job. Okay, I have no other comments on the subject. God Bless our men and women in uniform.

    • Chris Scaife

      I think the previous post brings up a good point and my feelings on the subject. I just can’t bring myself to deny someone something based on a chromosome. I think a set of standards should be made and to be in the club you have to meet those standards. Vietnam, from my understanding, was a very very difficult type of hell for those who served. Thanks to all the Vietnam vets out there. Small guys, big guys, they all get their shot. Plenty of women are branching out into things they are interested in, infantry is among them. That Ronda Rousey fighter seems to be putting asses in seats for the UFC. I assume it’s a natural progression. I think a lot of people, men and women, find the infantry isn’t for them once they get a real taste of it. I loved it, but I didn’t want it for life, so I left. Probably a huge number of people out there like that.

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