The secretary of the Navy has insulted a Marine task force by questioning the integrity of their gender-integration study that was released last week. A summary of data showed that “mixed-gender teams completed tasks more slowly and shot with less accuracy, and that women sustained injuries at more than twice the rate of their male counterparts.”
It took the Marine Corps nine months and $36 million to discover that all-male ground combat units were faster, more lethal and less inclined to get injured than units with mixed genders. The task force came to the conclusion that the inclusion of women in combat units had a negative impact on unit cohesion.
Via The Hill:
The report, released Thursday, is part of the Marine Corps’s efforts to study integrating women into the infantry in order to meet a 2012 order by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open all military jobs to women.
Services must open all jobs to women by January, or else submit requests for exceptions by the end of this month. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will then review the requests and make final decisions by early next year.
The Washington Post reported on the study’s findings:
[O]nly a small number of women were left by the experiment’s conclusion — two of the roughly two dozen who started — mostly in part because of the physical and mental stress that comes with combat roles. Both the men and women in the task force also reported a breakdown in unit cohesion with some voicing a perceived unequal treatment from their peers. […]
The Marine Corps Times report cites a number of instances where women had a difficult time completing physical tasks, like moving 200 pound dummies off the battlefield or from the turret of a “damaged” vehicle. Peer assessments were also mixed.
Lance Cpl. Chris Augello, a reservist who prior to the experiment was pro-integration, submitted a 13-page essay—which he shared with the Marine Corps Times—on why he had changed his mind. “The female variable in this social experiment has wrought a fundamental change in the way male [non-commissioned officers] think, act and lead,” he wrote, referring to the female presence and its effect on how Marine Corps small-unit leaders do their job.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus was in favor of full integration before the research was conducted, and doubled down on that position even after the study showed that full integration had a negative impact on unit cohesion and performance.
Mabus, a career Democrat politician *with only two years of military experience before he was appointed secretary of the Navy by Obama, criticized the study during an interview with NPR, accusing the Marines of conducting the study in a biased manner.
Via the Marine Corps Times:
In his radio interview, Mabus suggested the Marines’ study was flawed due to the caliber and mindset of the volunteer participants.
“It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking ‘this is not a good idea,’ and ‘women will never be able to do this,’ ” Mabus said. “When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome.”
Mabus also said the Marines could have selected female volunteers who were better suited to the task of marching under heavy loads, which accounted for many of the injuries that were observed.
“For the women that volunteered, probably there should have been a higher bar to cross to get into the experiment,” he said.
Female volunteers, except for a small “provisional infantry” group, were required to graduate from the Marines’ entry-level enlisted infantry training course and specific combat job schools, if applicable. They also had to get at least a third-class score on the male version of the Marine Corps’ Physical Fitness Test, requiring three pullups, 50 crunches in one minute, and a 3-mile run in 28 minutes.
In a Pentagon briefing Thursday, however, officials said the female Marines who volunteered tended to be athletic, with high scores on the PFT and combat fitness tests.
“These were good Marines,” said Paul Johnson, the principal investigator for the integrated task force experiment.
Secretary Mabus is taking a beating from Marines in the Marine Corps Times’ comment section:
“SECNAV. I’m a Infantry NCO. a two war Marine and you Sir are full of sh*t on this subject,” said the first commenter.
Another commenter wrote: “It’s those pesky facts. SECNAV doesn’t like them so he is inventing his own. The tests were realistic and accurate. Give it up sir!”
“Secretary Mabus is obviously h*ll-bent on ramming through gender-mixed units no matter how many Marines and sailors have to die in order to realize his little pet project. Ray Mabus: Worst.SECNAV.Ever,” said another Marine.
I didn’t see a single comment in support of the secretary of the Navy’s position on gender integration in the Marines.
* Correction: In an earlier version of this post, I reported incorrectly that Mabus had no military service. On closer review, I found that he did serve a short stint in the Navy from 1970-1972.