As the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, along with the U.S. Special Operations Command, initiate steps to fully integrate women into their ground-combat ranks, a great deal of attention has been given to matters of physical standards, readiness, compatibility, unit cohesion, and the like. Those who oppose the Department of Defense full-integration directive have cited monetary costs. A degradation of operational capability, female injury, and the issue of have draft-age women register for the draft, just like the men, as reasons to continue to restrict women from ground combat. Those who support fully integrating women into the ground-combat service branches talk of fairness and that no American, man or woman, should be barred from serving their country in any capacity for which they are qualified. This discussion has taken place largely within the context of an all-volunteer service. For most Americans, think that those who volunteer to serve must also take an extra step to volunteer for ground combat. And in the Army and the Marine Corps, that means volunteering for duty in the infantry, armor, or artillery branches. Well, this ain’t necessarily so.
The Army operates, for the most part, on a sign-up-for-your-branch-of-
The Marines do this a little differently; In the Marine Corps, the needs of the Corps rule. A Marine Corps enlistee first goes into basic training. Then, based on the needs of the Marine Corps and the new Marine’s test scores, he or she is assigned to an MOS. A good many bright young men join the Marine Corps to be infantrymen, only to be sent to a technical MOS, like communications or intelligence, because of their aptitude and test scores. The Marines take into account the desires of their new Marines, but the needs of the Marine Corps come first.
Bottom line, service in the Marine Corps and, to a lesser degree, in the Army may now compel a new service person, man or woman, to serve in ground combat–whether they want to or not. It would be hard to imagine making ground combat assignment optional for women, but not for men. That would violate the fairness argument. When Secretary Panetta directed the services to plan for the opening of the formerly-restricted, ground-combat MOSs to women–and Secretary Carter implemented that directive without exception–I’m not sure they took this fully into consideration.
Special Operations gets a pass on this one–sort of. You volunteer in and you can quit at any time. Many do, and serve out their enlistments based on the needs of their parent service. A good many soldiers who wash out of Special Forces Qualification training and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program are sent to infantry units, and those units are glad to get these fine soldiers.