Special Ops General Concerned with 'Culture, Social Behavior' Aspects of Women in Combat

The rank-and-file will get the opportunity to share their thoughts on the integration of women in a survey. "I might add that sometimes we underestimate the capacity of our younger troops to embrace change, to embrace diversity, and I just want to provide them an opportunity to voice their concerns in this survey," Sacolick said.

"I have got to be the honest broker in this process, and we've got to let it work," he said of the review process. "So I don't want to predispose anybody or this process to my personal opinions on the subject. I just want to see what happens."

Army Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg stressed the goal of implementing "gender-neutral standards," then clarified "we have to make sure that we have the requirements of that task established, regardless of whether they're male or female, because the worst thing that we could do is change that standard for that position, whether it's even a medic on the battlefield or whether it's an infantryman."

"This isn't to set anybody up for failure," Bromberg said. "This is all about success, and we're calling it soldier 2020. You'll notice it's soldier for 2020. It's not male soldier or female soldier. This scenario that we've been working on for years to identify to how to improve the force of the future."

Marine Col. John Aytes, head of the military policy branch, said more than 250 physically demanding tasks gleaned from 335 primary military occupational specialities would be put to the test in the coming weeks.

"This summer we'll test 400 male and 400 female Marines using those proxy tests, and then we're going to correlate that data against those Marines' existing physical fitness test and combat fitness test, or PFT and CFT events, and using that information as collected, we're going to try to build a safe, a very simple screening test that we're going to use to contract our applicants coming into the Marine Corps," Aytes said.

"If we recommend implementing a policy without exemptions, we'll open those identified MOS's and units or units in a logical sequence that neither impacts the combat effectiveness of the unit, nor the capability of the individual Marine," he added.

An example of the tests? "We're in a cramp compartment. A tank gunner must reach over to the rack, lift that 55-pound shell from the rack, pull it out, flip it over, and insert it into the breach," Aytes said. "There's deadlift. There's the 155 round, which is our artillery round. The tank round, as well as scaling a wall."

"Load the tank round has got to be one that is done by a male tank gunner or a female tank gunner. We don't have different size weight rounds for them, and it's got to be done by everybody," he added.

Sacolick said he's not comfortable with the term "gender-neutral standards."

"We have standards. And they equate to an operational requirement on a battlefield. Our mission is different, so our standards are different," said the SOCOM general.

"We send a 12-man A-Team or even smaller into very austere, remote environments by themselves. In many respects, they may be the only Americans serving in a particular country. And so I think we have to -- you know, that complicates, you know, integration, and that's our concern," Sacolick continued.

When asked if there were reasons women couldn't meet behavioral or social standards, Sacolick replied, "I'm actually more concerned with the men and their reaction to women in their formations, quite frankly. But it's just too premature to answer that question definitively."

Studies will be due to SOCOM by July 1, 2014, and they don't intend to make a final recommendation to the Pentagon until July 1, 2015.