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Dying Dinosaurs

08/22/2015

In 1968, I graduated from Infantry Officer Candidate School and then Parachute School.  Earlier, I had also applied for Ranger School (8 weeks) or Special Forces School (21 weeks).  To my surprise, I was given my choice and chose Special Forces.  That decision has been on my mind this week, with the good news that the first two women have graduated from Ranger School.

Twenty years ago, women began joining the military in large numbers, and there was considerable discussion as to whether they should be allowed into combat roles.  At that time, I was opposed to it.  That attitude reflected the view of many in my generation that women were to be respected and protected at all times.  Therefore, I knew I would expose myself to additional risk to protect a woman on the battlefield, compared to a man.  Additional risk threatens the mission.  Never take additional risk, because you may threaten the mission.  The mission always comes first!

The problem was not that women are not tough enough.  Some of the toughest people I’ve ever met were women.  Instead,  the problem was the attitude of men in my generation toward those women.  The attitude was not that women are not good enough, it was that men behave differently, and maybe dangerously, in the presence of women.

Today, however, my generation of dinosaurs has aged out of combat roles.  I don’t think combat soldiers in the current generation feel the same way and don’t think they would jeopardize the mission just to save a woman or anyone else.  That threat to the mission has passed, and it is time to let women into combat roles.

I proudly salute Captain Kristen Griest and Lieutenant Shaye Haver!

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