English Comp 2
Should Women be Navy SEALS?
Navy SEALs are the most elite close combat fighting force in the military. They specialize in special operations in any environment, however, they primarily train around and in maritime areas. SEALS train and fight in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, Counterterrorism, and Special Reconaissance in either sea, land, or air. Navy SEALs are called on to perform missions of strategic importance for the United States. One of their most well-known missions, Operation Neptune Spear, took place on May 1, 2011 when SEAL team 6 carried out the operation to kill the Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.
Since October 1, 1994 the Direct Ground Combat rule has been in effect. This military rule prevented women from being assigned to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground. However, recently as of January 2013, Secretary of Defense, at the time, Leon Panetta announced that the military will lift its ban on women serving in combat roles. This change will open up around 237,000 jobs for women, including those on the front lines according to USA Today. The repeal of the Direct Combat Rule does not immediately affect the assignment of women to Navy special warfare and approximately 3000 positions remain closed to the assignment of women. Studies are being conducted to research and analyze social impacts of integrations on small, elite units operating in austere and remote environments. According to Slate, these studies are scheduled to be completed by July 2014.
Mr. Panetta, Secretary of Defense at the time, decided to make this change right before he had to step down on the basis of equal opportunity. According to NY Times, “Mr. Panetta’s decision came after he received a Jan. 9 letter from Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stated in strong terms that the armed service chiefs all agreed that ‘the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.’” The only valid argument in repealing the ban on women fighting in the special forces is that it is not right to not give the same opportunities to both men and women. Women argue that they can perform physically and mentally as well as men. It may be true that women can run as fast as men or do the same training requirements as men but that does not mean that women are going to be able to perform at the same level of men under the pressure of close combat fighting. Former Navy SEAL Adm. George Worthington explains it well when he says, “It’s not marathon times. It’s not your speed in a 400-meter run or swim, It’s how you do it after 52 hours of being totally awake. Sand in your crotch and leeches and mosquitoes. How do you take that? It’s military conditioning, not Olympics stuff.”
Is opening up special operations to women really a good idea for the military? No. Women should not be allowed to become Navy SEALs for many reasons including their physical and emotional disadvantages, the estimated failure rate of women, the changes that would have to be made throughout the SEALs, and the fact that there are certain things that make SEALs the most elite of the elite, why mess that up?
Compared to men, women are at a physical and mental disadvantage, especially compared to the men who are Navy SEALS. First, let’s discuss how women are physically different than men. There are generally three reasons: muscle mass differences, bone structure, and lack of high testosterone levels. In a 1993 study exploring gender differences in muscle makeup, female participants exhibited only 52% of men’s upper-body strength and only 2/3 of men’s lower-body strength. Another study published in 1999 similarly found women had 40% less upper body skeletal muscle than men. Even controlling for athletic aptitude doesn’t tip the scales in favor of the females. Men have 50% greater total muscle mass, based on weight, than do women. A woman who is the same size as her male counterpart is generally only 80% as strong.
Next, women naturally have lighter and thinner bones compared to men. This means women are more likely to be injured because of stress fractures, broken bones, and countless other injuries while training or even worse while on a mission.
Women’s last physical disadvantage is their lack of testosterone compared to men. Women should not be allowed to perform the same combat duties that the current Navy SEALS are allowed to do because estrogen and testosterone create different reactions to combat on a physical as well as emotional level. Higher testosterone levels make men more suitable for combat because it is a natural performance-enhancing substance. Although women do have testosterone, it is on average 10-15 times less than that of a man. Men naturally produce 7 milligrams a day, whereas women produce 1/15 of that. Men’s elevated levels result in increases in muscle protein synthesis, resulting in increased muscle mass and reductions in muscle glycogen breakdown during exercise.
Females are also mentally disadvantaged compared to men. The lack of testosterone greatly affects women mentally with aggression and how they would react during combat. Men’s high levels of testosterone are vital to Navy SEALS’ missions. Imagine being on a mission and the less aggressive female soldier hesitates or does not perform the action requested of her. This can cause the man beside her or the soldier she is protecting to be injured, uncovered, or even shot and killed. There is not time to waste or time to hesitate when SEALS are on missions. The aggression that testosterone provides for men is vital in these situations. “The greater aggressiveness of the male is one of the best established, and most pervasive, of all psychological sex differences,” says Dr. Eleanor E. Maccoby and Dr. Carol Nagy Jacklin, Stanford University psychologists who are among the leading experts on sex differences.
So if women were able to overcome the physical and mental disadvantages compared to me and let’s say BUD/S, Navy SEAL training camp, is opened up to women; how likely is one to pass? BUD/S is a six month training course to train up-and-coming Navy SEALS. To even be considered for BUD/S, a male must meet requirements for a 500 yard swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile timed run. The minimum standards are ignored, so to really succeed one must hold the “competitive requirements”. According to the official Naval Special Warfare website, SEALSWCC, the men who only meet the minimum requirements and not the competitive requirements are 3 times less likely to graduate training. Each year a new class of about 1000 men begin Navy SEAL training. Although success rates vary per class, usually about only 200-250 men graduate BUD/S. This means the failure rate of men is already 80%. What would it be for women? 90%? 95%? So why would the Navy go through all the trouble of integrating women into SEAL training if only a few women are going to succeed?
Former Navy SEAL officer Cade Courthey states, “I’m confident there are women who can pass the physical standards; there are women I’m sure who can pass the mental standards, but why would you add an element into the most elite special forces that could cause it to be less effective?” and “I’m not saying SEALS can’t adapt, but why mess with something that is working.” Former Navy SEAL Dick Couch also expresses concern about this in his article in TIME Magazine. His concern is that women who meet the standard need to do so in more than ones and twos because it is unreasonable to open training to 200 women to find only two who can meet the standard.
Another concern about opening Navy SEAL training up to women is that it would cost a lot of money to prepare adequate housing and training facilities for both men and women. This problem is discussed in a Navy Times article, “Military plans would out women in most combat jobs”.The article touched on the points about the cost of opening up these combat jobs to women, “particularly abroad a variety of Navy ships, including submarines, frigates, mine warfare and other smaller warships.” Many of these ships don’t have adequate facilities for women, especially to meet privacy needs. These ships would require design and construction changes, something that if the combat positions stayed closed to women wouldn’t be an issue. Also at the training of SEALs, housing and residence halls would have to be redesigned and reconstructed so that women and men could have separate barracks, so that privacy needs were met. Opening up these positions to women causes a lot of change that would need to take place, and this change ultimately detracts the attention away from the big picture. The main focus of Navy SEALs are to carry out missions that protect the people of our great nation and with all this change going on, things might start to get distracting.
Lastly, integrating women into Navy SEALs would break up the cohesion of an all male unit. Comradery and teamwork are both important aspects to SEALs, in both training and especially on missions. This elite group of professionals are recognized around the world as the best of the best in accomplishing their purpose through working as a team. They never work alone and they understand that the more work they are prepared to put into team building, the greater the teamwork benefits will be. Navy SEALs have always trained with only men. Training is intense, scary, and seems like hell. Training wouldn’t be the same with men and women training beside each other, and if they trained men and women separately training wouldn’t be as effective. Although officers would be required to treat everyone the same, you can imagine that subconsciously officers would treat women differently. Women and men just wouldn’t be able to train together the same as men only. A former Navy SEAL describes a moment he remembers from Hell Week from BUD/S. One night it was so cold and all the trainees were spooning to get at least a little bit of warmth in the frigid air. The soldier was just hoping the guy behind him would have to pee so he could receive just a few seconds of warmth. This story shows how extreme training can be and how women and men wouldn’t be able to train together. It would just be inappropriate for men and women to be in that situation together. Men and women simply do not have the same type of relationship as men working only with men.
Studies have been conducted and surveys have been taken to test the approval rate from civilians and military students who agree with allowing women into the special forces. Surveys were taken at the United States Air Force Academy and the United States Naval Academy. Michael D. Matthews and Morten G. Ender from the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership of West Point conducted surveys that found that military students and particularly those from the academies, were more likely to perceive that the presence of women would be detrimental to combat effectiveness. Civilians and military students both agreed that they are hesitant about sending women into close combat such as Navy SEALS. The strenuous physical and mental demands would be extremely challenging for women compared to men.
Another aspect to women in the military that people are concerned with is the privacy issue between male and female soldiers in training and in combat missions. It is the thought of being seen in unhygienic situations such as having to urinate or defecate in front of fellow soldiers when there are no other options that make military soldiers concerned about integrating women. Picture the familiar reality of Marines all packed in the bed of a truck, so tightly that some men have to sit on another soldier’s lap. They ride for 48 hours fully clothed and armed in the intense heat of the day. You can imagine how filthy, sweaty, and smelly these soldiers are at this point. The soldiers‘ only choice to relieve themselves is a little bags for urinating and defecating. Imagine if there were women in this combat group? Those conditions wouldn’t be acceptable for the privacy of men and women. Many problems would be brought up about that and that would be yet another thing the Navy would have to change about their operations. Also changing clothes and taking showers become a problem that has to be dealt with if women become Navy SEALs. Many changes would have to be made in the daily life of those Navy SEALs and it just isn’t worth it in the long run.
Since the ban has been lifted, services are struggling with integrating women into the combat jobs they were once not allowed to do. The Army Rangers have a plan in motion and the Navy is still planning to research more about integrating women and allowing women to train as Navy SEALs. Women are physically and mentally disadvantaged compared to men, women have a higher failure rate at BUD/S, too many changes would have to be made, and women would break up the cohesion of the all-male unit. Women should not be allowed to become Navy SEALs because the risks outweigh the political correctness of the potential outcome.