Less than 10 days after two more female Marines were dropped from infantry officer training, a Veterans Affairs doctor has expressed doubt on the long-term physical effects of women in the infantry.
“I’m certain the majority of women doing this won’t be physically able to do it as long as the men," Dr. David Cifu, national director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Veterans Health Administration, told Bryant Jordan of Military.com. "It’s a matter of body size and body mechanics."
As they have demonstrated on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are already able to handle duty in a combat zone. But moving them into an infantry role comes with more unknowns about long-term effects. Jordan notes that one of the major afflictions of Iraq and Afghanistan has been musculoskeletal, connective tissue, and spinal injuries.
Since no females have served in the infantry (the occupation is still only open to males), there is no direct data, but previous arguments echo Dr. Cifu's worries . Most notably — a female Marine officer who served with infantry units as a combat engineer.
In the Marine Corps Gazette , Capt. Katie Petronio wrote:
...we have already proven that we can hold our own in some very difficult combat situations; instead, my main concern is a question of longevity. Can women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical issues that go along with integration?
The infantry is known for long marches with more than 80 pounds of gear on average, but many times much more. Unfortunately, Petronio admits, the weight was simply too much for her body:
Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion, that we haven’t even begun to analyze and comprehend the gender-specific medical issues and overall physical toll continuous combat operations will have on females.
Despite much politicization of the issue — with outside groups pushing to lift the ban — AP interviews with a dozen female soldiers and Marines revealed not much interest in joining infantry units.
"The job I want to do in the military does not include combat arms," Army Sgt. Cherry Sweat told AP.
Although a 25-year Navy veteran disagrees: "I think they'll be surprised by the number that will come forward," Lory Manning of the Women's Research and Education Institute told the AP.
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