This is the second part in a three part series. Please read Breaking Up A Sausage Party: Women In The Infantry before reading this article.
The Anecdotal Argument
Let me make it clear: I am not, never was, and never will be (hopefully) a combat infantryman.
Indeed my background in the military provided opportunities to venture into combat; but, I was never too excited about that--and I was never in or attached to an infantry unit. I told the recruiter I wanted something relatively safe--something like intel. Thanks to having almost no common sense and a background in multiple languages, I was convinced to join as a linguist--arguably the most highly deployed and "out front" of the intel corps (I would later find).
So, though I was Army intel, for the bulk of my longest (and only combat-centered) deployment, I was a member of a team that was Direct Support to an MP company in Afghanistan--quite a different variety of intel than sitting in a secure facility clacking away on a keyboard or listening to headphones (though, full disclosure, I did a lot of that over my Army career too).
Anyway, I spent most of my 12-month deployment in missions outside the wire--chiefly acting second to my team leader, and given the task of finding bad dudes doing bad shit. When I wasn't out and about I was typically using my special skills of bullshitting to chat with local nationals on or around our camp (read: still trying to find bad dudes doing bad shit, but in a friendlier, tea drinking way).
Either way, for the whole of my combat experience in the military, I lived in a camp co-located with a platoon-minus of MPs, a Marine ETT, some DynCorp dudes, and various Afghan nationals.
The MPs were tasked with providing border security assistance to the Afghan Border Patrol, training to the Afghan National Police, and a whole host of other odds and ends (like taking a three to four member intelligence team anywhere we desired in our AO). The others were tasked with, well, other shit...
One interesting thing about the MPs, aside from the fact that I always just thought of them as cops (teenage pot smoking cuts deep into the psyche I suppose), was that there were a few female MPs assigned to the camp. So, even though there was a platoon-minus of MPs, the unit was required to work together with two or three females (one of whom was actually a medic if I recall), which meant shared latrines, the existence of feminine hygiene products, and all the things that go into having women and men work together in close quarters--such as paying attention to POSH.
Now, I can't say what this meant for the unit entirely because our team was separated on a different part of the camp and we only worked with the MPs while on missions; but, from what I could tell, and from what I saw, the female MPs were just as capable as the males for the job we were doing; they would ride as gunners in HMMWVs, work in and around the APCs, service the 50 cals and MK-19s, TQ people while on presence patrols, and even help to provide us lowly intel dudes with extra security when we'd roll up to schmooze with district officials and other contacts of interest. I never felt anything but safe in their presence--I knew they had our back as much as any of the other MPs.
Though I didn't work directly with infantry while deployed, there were a few infantry members whom I'd met and chatted up who seemed to have a lot less combat experience than some of these female MPs. Some of these guys appeared to not only lack combat experience but made me wonder what would happen once shit went down . . . call it the nature of a numbers game, but a few of these guys weren't playing with a full deck, if you know what I mean. Were they qualified to be infantrymen? No doubt. Better at the job than a non soup-sandwich female might be? My best guess is no.
Case in point: As far as the female MPs, I chatted with one of them a fair amount--and, no, I wasn't looking to bang, trust me. She was actually on her second year-long deployment after a deployment in Iraq and had the distinguishing fact in her unit of being a corporal with a few confirmed kills--the only other MP corporal with a confirmed kill on our camp was a former Marine with a silver star (i.e. he was pretty much a badass).
Probably the most interesting thing I learned from the female MP corporal was that she joined the MPs because she couldn't join the infantry.
Indeed, she was super gung-ho about killing terrorists and found that the MP corps was her best shot at having that opportunity. It had nothing to do with advancing her career; it had everything to do with serving her country in the way she knew she could serve it best. Also, as a cherry on top, the MP chick was pretty brute. I'd be willing to guess that she could carry more, hike longer, and work harder than some scrawny infantrymen I've met.
Obviously, the reason I point out this anecdote is not to persuade anyone; however, I felt it was important to give a little bit of context to my experience before moving into my deep down feelings on the matter--feelings that I hope will persuade others to consider whether or not women belong in the infantry from an angle other than what may be being talked about right now in the mil-blog/social media world.
So, if you're looking for a more evidenced-based argument, stay tuned for the next part of this three-post series.
Read the next article in this series Ending A Sausage Party: Women In The Infantry Part 3