Friday, January 08, 2016

Open Letter to Congress on Women in the Infantry

Senators and Congressmen,

I was commissioned in the Marine Corps through the NROTC program at the University of Mississippi in 1978 and served for over 25 years as an infantry officer.  I also commanded significant portions of the Marine Corps' recruiting effort on two different occasions.

The Obama administration is once again bypassing the Congress and enacting its social agenda, this time with regard to the Armed Forces of the United States.  The decision to open infantry (and other front-line combat units) to women will ultimately lead to the lowering of the physical standards and high levels of training that have made the US Army and Marines the world's measure of combat effectiveness.  It is inevitable that as women fail to meet the current high physical standards (particularly for service in infantry formations in the Marine Corps) those standards will be lowered to grant women admission.

I know you know this.

What you may not grasp are the implications for recruiting.  This action is being sold in part as a way to, paraphrasing the Secretary of the Navy's own words, "make the other half (women) of American society available to fill the ranks."  It will not.

During my tours on recruiting -- both during time of war -- the critical node was the recruit's mother.  Annual Youth Attitude Tracking surveys always found that American mothers are the single most influential person in a recruit's decision-making.  Those same surveys show that mothers are also the least likely of all of the influencers to recommend volunteering for military service.  And, a mother's influence wanes little even after a potential recruit reaches the age of majority. Convincing "Mother" that her daughter could join the Marine Corps without fear of assignment to a frontline combat organization was, and remains, a challenge of the highest magnitude.

As you well know, although today's military is touted as an "All Volunteer Force," it is in fact an "all recruited force." The vast majority of young men and women who enlist in the US military do so only after contacted by a recruiter and sold on the benefits of service. What you may not know is that a significant percentage of male recruits are assigned to duty as infantry against their wishes -- it is not one of their top three choices.  Opening infantry to women will inevitably mean that women who meet the minimum physical standards will be forced into infantry units.  Instead of opening up the female half of the population to recruiting, this will have the opposite effect.  Mothers will not be willing to allow their daughters to join if there is a chance they will be forced into the infantry.

It is time for Congress to act.  The Secretary of the Navy has given the Marine Corps less than 6 months to implement full integration of women in recruit training and assignment to infantry units.  You must prevent this.  

I'm counting on you. 

Very Respectfully,
Thomas E. Gregory
Colonel, USMC (Ret)
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