If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime. --Jack Kerouac

To Earn The Title: Women In The Marine Corps (4)

First Posted: Jan. 16, 2016, 2:42 p.m. CST
Last Updated: Jan. 16, 2016, 2:42 p.m. CST
By challenging the Marine Corps policy of segregated training, Lt Col Germano’s results came at a time that the Marine Corps itself, under Gen. Dunford, was concluding its year-long study on the combat effectiveness of female and mixed gender units as opposed to all male units. Her findings contradicted the Dunford Study and demonstrated that mixed gender training actually increased performance and marksmanship in both genders.

Breaking Ranks. By challenging the Marine Corps policy of segregated training, Lt Col Germano’s results came at a time that the Marine Corps itself, under Gen. Dunford, was concluding its year-long study on the combat effectiveness of female and mixed gender units as opposed to all male units. Lt Col Germano was conducting the same “experiment” at the same time and for about the same duration of time, as Dunford’s study. TA four page summary of the results of the Marine Corps’ year-long study of integrating infantry and combat units was released in August of 2015. Lt. Col. Germano’s success at Parris Island put her results in direct conflict with the Marine Corps’ synopsis of their study on women in combat. Amidst controversy, Lt. Col. Germano was relieved of her command of the recruit battalion by the Marine Corps in July of 2015. The Marine Corps’ summary of the year-long study found that mixed gender units were less effective and less lethal than all male units. By challenging the recruit depot’s policy of separate training, Lt Col Germano’s experiment found that both the male and female battalions showed significant improvement in a key combat skill: Marksmanship. Gen. Dunford’s interpretations of the study’s findings showed that female and mixed gender units were “less lethal” and that their marksmanship averages fell below all male units. It was not Lt. Col. Germano’s intent to rebuff Gen, Dunford’s findings; she simply believed that Marine recruits were capable of doing better, and under her leadership they did exactly that.

However, a wook is a wook, and her success in Parris Island was not only conflicting with Gen. Dunford’s study and his basis for an exception; it was a slap in the face for the Marine Corps’ patriarchy. Lt. Col. Germano and Ms. Bhagwati are perceived as ‘threats’ by their predominately male command structure. When a Marine is said to be “breaking ranks” it is implied that the Marine is stepping out of line; defying the status quo. Certainly both women were seen by the Marine command structure as “breaking ranks.” Ms. Bhagwati suffered overt hostility in every unit she served in because of her actions to protect women and other minorities, and Lt. Col. Germano was relieved of her command for a minor infraction. For a staff officer, a Lieutenant Colonel, to be relieved of command, there is usually some serious lapse of judgment or incompetence resulting in loss or life of serious injury. Lt Col Germano had 22 years of service and was selected and appointed to be an aide to the Secretary of the Navy. In the Marine Corps world, the Secretary of the Navy is only second to the National Command Authority: The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense. The Marine Corps does not appoint officers to that post because they are perceived to be ‘shitbirds’ or trouble makers.

Another officer at the depot that worked under Lt. Col. Germano’s command told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Lt. Col. Germano lost her job over a difference in philosophy about the future of women in the Marine Corps. The officer asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution. The officer told the Union-Tribune that Lt. Col. Germano was engaged, hard-driving and willing to hold her Marines accountable. Prior to her being fired, the base commander, Brigadier General Terry Williams, wrote in an email that was obtained by the Union-Tribune, that Lt. Col. Germano was “doing great down here…In my book she is knocking it out of the ballpark.” Lt. Col. Germano worked with range personnel to improve the training and mentorship of female recruits raising their marksmanship rates tremendously. Barely 3 months later she was sacked. But even in April, Gen. Williams and others in the command knew of the conflict between Lt. Col. Germano and her male superior, Col. Dan Haas. The two disagreed on training philosophy, and in particular, the separation of genders. Lt. Col. Germano took a stand against what she saw as gender bias that reduced female recruit performance. She even went as far as filing an equal opportunity complaint. Gen. Williams who only months before had glowing remarks for the female lieutenant colonel, cited that “a poor command climate and the loss trust and confidence in her ability to command” as the grounds for her firing.

Lt. Col. Germano not only served in Iraq with the 31st MEU, she led a turn-around at the flagging San Diego Recruiting Station lifting it to be the Marine Corps’ top performing Recruiting Station three years in a row. This was a dedicated and exemplary Marine. Lt. Col. Germano, as with Capt. Bhagwati, was being punished for breaking ranks.

The general and the mustard seed. Samuel Morton, a 16th Century Social Scientist, had amassed the most extensive skull collection of different types of people that had ever been gathered together in his time, and he tried to measure the volume of a skull to link it to individual intelligence. The larger the skull, the greater the intelligence; Morton believed bigger was better. He soon realized it's not that easy to measure the volume of a skull. So what does one do? You pour in something, like mustard seed, as Morton started to use, or lead shot, as he used later, and then you pour it out again into a graduated cylinder and you measure the volume. Morton’s biases feed his actions. Consciously he was trying to be objective as Commandant Dunford and Sergeant Major LeHew were doing with the study. Subconsciously, Morton’s biases that Caucasians were superior to other races, guided his actions. This was the 16th Century. He tended to “squeeze in” more mustard seeds into Caucasian skulls not to disprove his assumption but rather to reinforce those assumptions under the guise of an “objective study.” He also neglected the correlation between skull and body size. That's why the brains of women turn out to be smaller in gross weight than the brains of men. But that does not mean all women are less intelligent than men solely on the volume of their skulls.

What does this history lesson have to do with today? After all, Morton’s findings were debunked and disproved anyhow. Actually, Morton’s principles are still very much at work today in commercial marketing and in the political and social sciences. Think tanks like the RAND Corporation or the Brookings Institute, and many, many others continue Morton’s work with zeal and a lot of capital. Often the left or right will use such “third party” institutes to do a poll or a study not to disprove their assumptions, but rather to reinforce their agenda whether they the NRA or opponents of global warming. Talking heads in the media then quote these agencies and their findings, much like Dunford, with authority in front of the public who then takes them as gospel from a modern day Pope Urban II.

In early September of this year, the Marine Corps released its four page summary of the “findings” of the year-long study testing whether female Marines can survive the abrasive and physically demanding world of ground combat. According to NPR, the results according to the summary were stark. All male units outperformed mixed-gender units across the board. The Marine Corps created a battalion of 100 women and 300 men last fall to test whether opening up jobs in the infantry, artillery and armor to women was plausible or tactically sound. NPR went along. They carried heavy packs and mounted patrols, shot at targets and dug fighting holes, practiced pulling the wounded to safety. The test measured the combat effectiveness, cohesion and lethality of mixed gender units versus all male units. The NPR report noted:

“All-male units were faster in moving to a target, the study found, especially with a heavy weapon like a machine gun. They also had more hits on target and at a faster rate. And the number of females in those mixed-gender units was small. They tested with one woman, then two women. The numbers were kept low to reflect this reality. Women make up just 7 percent of the Marine Corps.”

“The study pointed to what it called notable differences in the amount of time it took an all-male unit to evacuate a wounded Marine compared to a mix-gender unit. In addition, women had trouble climbing over a barrier with their packs and often needed assistance. And they suffered more injuries, like stress fractures from carrying heavy packs. Still, the Marines included no specific time differences in the synopsis, and they said the findings do not necessarily mean that women should be barred from ground combat.”

According to Mr. Paul Johnson, who headed up the study for the Marine Corps, the units were tested across a battery of 143 activities designed to simulate combat. Mr. Johnson told NPR that in “93 out of 134 tasks that we tested across the MOS's, the all-male groups outperformed the integrated groups” in effectiveness, proficiency and lethality. The Marine Corps synopsis included this quote from a 1992 presidential commission. A military unit at maximum combat effectiveness is a military unit less likely to suffer casualties. The presidential commission concluded that "risking the lives of a military unit in combat to provide career opportunities or accommodate the personal desires or interests of an individual, or group … is more than bad military judgment. It is morally wrong."

Some say that the Marine Corps released the study’s summaries to vet the idea of challenging the 2013 directive to lift the ban on women in combat roles. These findings, which were based largely on aggregate averages of females performing the tasks and not on individual ability, were the basis of the exception Dunford and Marine leaders submitted to the Secretary of the Navy for an excluded women from ground combat. Then Commandant Gen. Dunford submitted the request for an exemption to his civilian superior, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
According to Marine Corps’ report summary primary consideration in conducting the research was combat effectiveness, followed by the health and welfare of individual Marines. Among the findings:

• On average all-male units performed better than mixed-gender units on 93 of 134 tasks, or 69%.
• On average all-male infantry squads were faster in each tactical movement, with differences more pronounced when "crew-served" weapons such as machine guns had to be carried in addition to the standard assault load.
• On average all-male infantry rifleman squads were more accurate shots, with notable differences in all weapons except the M4 rifle.
• Men in the provisional infantry platoon who had not attended the infantry course were more accurate marksmen than women who had, hitting 44% of targets with the M4 rifle versus 28% among women trained at the infantry school.
• All-male squads were notably better as a group when tackling obstacles and evacuating casualties. For example: "When negotiating the wall obstacle, male Marines threw their packs to the top of the wall, whereas female Marines required regular assistance in getting their packs to the top."
• Two primary factors are associated with successful movement carrying heavy loads — lean body mass and peak oxygen uptake. The women’s averages scored lower in both areas. The men had an average of 20% body fat, compared with 24% among women. Women had an average of 10% lower peak oxygen uptake than men.

If the Marine Corps were testing the waters by releasing the study’s summary, it received a tsunami of push-back from opposition to the Corps’ continued segregation policy. At the head of the opposition, was the Corps’ top civilian boss, the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. The secretary publicly dismissed the study and its findings. In several public interviews the secretary made it very clear that he was not going to ask for any exceptions for either the Marines or the Navy. The secretary even went as far as saying in a televised PBS interview that he was not even asking for an exception from the elite Navy SEALs. The secretary also stated in numerous media outlets that the Marine Corps’ study was flawed. Mabus alleged the Marines involved in the experiment were biased against the idea of women in combat and suggested officials should have picked higher-quality female volunteers to assess.

Days after the Marine Corps released new data showing men outperformed women, Secretary Mabus speaking to the City Club of Cleveland in Ohio, and in a Marine Times article, erased any doubt about his plans to open all jobs in the sea services to female troops — including those in the infantry and in special operations. “Nobody's asking for an exemption in the Navy,” the secretary said, “...The SEALs aren't asking for an exemption ... I've been pretty clear, and I've been pretty clear about this for a while: I'm not going to ask for an exemption for the Marines.”

Uncharacteristic of the Marine Corps, and bordering on insubordination, Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, a Navy Cross recipient, the nation's second-highest valor award, and the senior enlisted Marine for the Corps' Training and Education Command, slammed his civilian chief in a lengthy and publicly visible post on Facebook, calling the secretary’s comments “counter to the interests of national security and unfair to the women who participated in this study.” Sgt. Maj. LeHew helped run the Corps' study on women in combat.
Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew insisted Mabus was "way off base" to suggest that female Marines of a higher caliber should have been selected for the service's integrated task force experiment and that officials went into the test anticipating the women would not be successful. Another vocal critic was another war hero designate and former Marine, Representative Duncan Hunter, in an open letter, asked for the secretary to be fired for “quickly proving that he's a political hack who cares more about doing the White House's bidding than the combat effectiveness of the Marine Corps," Hunter said. "Mabus is not only insulting the Marine Corps as an institution, but he's essentially telling Marines that their experience and judgment doesn't matter.” Remember Sgt. Gary Stein, who founded the Facebook page "Armed Forces Tea Party" and was administratively discharged for failing to promote good order and discipline under UCMJ Article 134? Why was Sgt. Maj. LeHew not brought up for charges under 139. LeHew criticized and questioned the judgment of his civilian chief in a lengthy and publicly visible post on the net, accusing the Secretary of the Navy of acting “counter to the interests of national security and unfair to the women who participated in this study.”

If allowing women in combat jobs is counter to National Security, have not field commanders also been acting “counter to the interests of national security,” as well as violating a standing order and federal law prohibiting the deployment of women in combat? Specialist Monica Brown, the Army medic who received a Silver Star for valor in combat, has stated that her commanders assigned her to combat units and deployed her in combat knowing full well it was in violation of a standing order. So did the commanders of countless Lioness Teams and FETs that have been deployed with combat units since 2006. Aren’t these commanders and officers’ actions counter to National Security since they sent women to combat?

As a former Marine officer, Rep. Hunter, seems to forget that the person residing in the ‘White House,’ albeit he is unpopular with Rep. Hunter’s party, is not only the President of the United States, but he is also the commander in chief of our military. The Secretary of the Navy does not do the “White House’s bidding,” he follows the orders of his commander in chief, as the commandant follows the lawful order of his superior, the Secretary of the Navy. That is what is called a chain of command, perhaps the representative from California has forgotten his ‘green monster knowledge’ from OCS, but every slick sleeved cherry boot private in the fleet knows that much. Lt. Col. Germano was relieved of her command for challenging the Marine Corps segregated training policy, and Sgt. Maj. LeHew, a male Marine, criticized the Secretary of the Navy in a public forum and received no repercussions from the Corps despite his violation of 134 and his comments that clearly opposes “the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces" by questioning his chain of command, and thus exhibiting a negative example to junior Marines. Both Marines arguably questioned the authority and wisdom of their superiors, but both received very different repercussions for their actions because of their gender.
Another fact is a recruit, male or female, does not succeed in boot camp or in the fleet based on broad gender averages. In boot camp, a recruit who was head and shoulders above me and easily had 25 pounds on me, had a violent mental breakdown in boot camp and had to be dragged away by Military Police. Another recruit who was 29 years old and had never participated in organized sports or athletics in his entire life prior to boot camp and struggled physically throughout the training graduated and received a meritorious promotion. You don’t succeed on averages; you survive and succeed on individual ability. Something the study either ignored or was omitted by the organizers, including the right honorable Sgt. Maj. LeHew.

Another prejudice that is often used but is far more innocuous, is the how male and female Marines are portrayed in the media. In every article and story LeHew is portrayed in, his name is always superseded by a litany of heroic awards denoting combat and heroics, whereas with Lt. Col. Germano despite her superior rank and her own laureled accomplishments, has no “combat citations or awards.” Automatically, there is a prejudice generated simply by this comparison; innocuous, subtle and powerful. LeHew is automatically given an authority and expertise by the general public, that Lt. Col. Germano is not afforded.
The 4 page summary of findings makes no mention of top performers among the women assigned to the study’s task force who may have met or exceeded the male average. Instead, the report said it focused on overall performance by female troops — who are limited on average by smaller stature and other physiological differences, historical restrictions on access to combat training, and cultural factors such as gun use. These are similar to the considerations like body size that Morton neglected in his original study. Gender-integrated units performed better than all-male units on two tasks, which were not identified. The men had an average of 20% body fat, compared with 24% among women. Women had an average of 10% lower peak oxygen uptake than men. These averages are again flawed as there were both males and females who were above and below these means. Those individuals are not mentioned in the report’s findings unlike the findings reported by the Army’s Ranger school experiment.

The Marine Corps has long held concerns that integrating women into combat units could erode morale in all-male platoons and lead to increased sexual tension that would undermine fighting capability. But a women’s advocacy group made public 300 additional pages without the permission of the Marine Corps; the very same study whose integrity Sgt. Maj. LeHew so vehemently defended. The additional findings held that after months of testing mixed-gender combat units, troops reported morale equal to that of all-male groups and higher than noncombat integrated groups. In addition, the study found sexual assault levels no higher than in the Marines as a whole. Men and women in a test group of about 400 Marines “feel a strong sense of belonging to the military, even more so when compared to other Marines of the operating forces,” the study found. The additional pages were released by Women in International Security. These omitted facts were similar to Lt. Col. Germano’s results in intergrated training.

Another study that the Marine Corps did not consider was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2011. This study found that women were just as resilient to the effects of combat stress as men. The study considered the answers from a survey of nearly 600 veterans, researchers including Dawne Vogt, a professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and researcher at the Veteran's Administration's National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, tracked stress measures like whether or not the soldiers had fired a gun or witnessed injuries or death. They then crossed those responses with four different post-deployment outcomes -- post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse and mental health functioning.

According to the Huffington Post who published the findings, one year post-deployment male and female veterans reported experiencing the same degree of PTSD and depression rates and had comparable mental health functioning. The only slight difference in mental health outcomes came in terms of substance abuse, and their male respondents were slightly more likely to report problems in that area. "In the broader trauma literature, there is a general finding that women are more negatively impacted by combat than men," Professor Vogt told the Huffington Post. "We hypothesized that we would see some real differences, with women looking worse off than men, but we didn't."
Michelle Wilmot served in Iraq as a member of the Army’s Team Lionness, the first female team attached to Marine infantry units to perform certain combat operations. She went on weapons and explosives searches, conducted house raids, and got shot at. "I'd hear, 'How did you do this?' And 'How do you deal with this as a woman?'" she said in a phone interview with the Post. "I'd think, 'How ridiculous!' The question is, how do I deal with this as a person? It's not a gender thing." After she was informed of the Boston University Study, "Women are in combat now," she said. "We're not inferior, or less capable or emotionally weak. I think it's funny that we even need a study to say that." Go tell it to the Marines.

This article was written by Joaquin Rafael Roces. "In my youth, chased dragon flies as they danced through sunbeams. I found myself lost in the dark woods. Some where between Gethsemane and Calvary, I lost my way. I was a man lost between two stations, who I was and who I should be. In that journey, I was many things, and I was not always honorable, certainly not dignified. As a bull rider, I never won a rodeo or a jackpot. I never walked away with sparkly spurs and a polished buckle. But what I did do is that every time I was bucked off and ended up with a face full of dirt I got up again. And again. And again. My friends call me Scar because I carry on my person the scars of my folly. Wounds and scars from the Marines, rock climbing, bull riding, snowboarding and skate boarding. Life is not a race to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. As Hunter Thompson declared one should skid in broadside in a cloud of dust and smoke, completely spent, and totally worn out. Life is not a spectator sport, you don't watch it from the sidelines or the bleachers. It is a contact sport. Get your feet wet, your nose bloodied and your hands dirty. That's who I am. I get a kick out of life, even if it's a kick in the teeth." --Joaquin Rafael Roces

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