Thoughts from Dr. Joe: This is no job for women

Last January some of my La Cañada female friends wanted my opinion on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's proposal to lift the ban on women in combat, particularly in the infantry, the most physically demanding branch of the military.

“Dr. Joe, isn't that great news for women?” one woman asked. I was speechless.

I listened respectfully to my friends' claims relative to equality, the importance of combat experience necessary for promotion, and the advancement of technology diminishing the disparity between the sexes.

I asked, “Why would you want this?”

I've heard a litany of arguments supporting women in combat, arguments used to buttress today's politically correct agenda. My initial thought would only curtail discussion, so I didn't give it. But, since you're curious, let me tell you that if you've never served in combat, you have no idea what it's like.

Women have encountered combat just like the rest of the war-fighters, and served honorably. However, a firefight is different from sustained combat operations. My opposition to women in the infantry is personal and pragmatic.

By admitting women to the infantry, you are asking them to be something they're not. Grunts, as infantry soldiers sometimes are called, usually carry 80 pounds of equipment, push themselves to the limits of human endurance, eat sporadically, sleep a couple hours at a time, and are burdened with the thought that any mistake can cost their squad's lives.

The infantry is the ultimate actualization of physical and emotional endurance. Only those who are capable should apply. Also factor in differences in hygiene, close proximity, bodily functions and sexual attraction. Men treat women differently; that compromises combat effectiveness. When you diminish combat effectiveness, people die.

The infantry's only mission is to kill the enemy. Infantrymen are not diplomats, negotiators, social crusaders or human-rights advocates. They are sent to influence other groups of people through the application of explicit violence.

For grunts, the application of violence is the goal and the norm by which you are judged. Every variable is evaluated by whether or not it enhances combat effectiveness. Does having women in the infantry enable the forces to destroy others more effectively, or does it put the grunts at a greater risk of losing their lives?

The infantry is not politically correct. It is the most exclusive element of society. It has to be. Fairness in the infantry is determined by effectiveness in combat. To survive, they must have the most severe standards. Whatever curtails a unit's capability to dominate the fight is eliminated. Grunts are relentlessly assessed to determine their merit and whether they are liabilities. If a soldier is weak or undependable, he is eaten by his own. This paradigm isn't seen in any other institution. Everyone comprehends what is at stake and everyone stands together because they are held to the same murderous standard. What's at stake is victory and survival. The infantry is not a place for social experimentation. Political correctness will get my Marines killed.

What kind of a society will we become if we accept seeing our women, some kid's mother, dead on the battlefield?

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at or visit his website at

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