No reason why women shouldn’t be drafted

The conservative Heritage foundation and its political twin, Heritage Action, took a political position on drafting women in time of national emergency for the worst of reasons: ignorance.

The Heritage twins and their pet senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, opposed the 2017 National Defense Authorization bill that funds the military. The House of Representatives approved the bill on May 18. Heritage opposed the bill because it has “defects” and it warned all senators that the bill had been placed on its Senate scorecard. Conservative senators do not like to have their votes appear in the negative column of the Heritage Senate scorecard.

{mosads}One would expect members of the conservative Heritage leadership to have been gung ho for funding national defense, especially as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sponsored additional funding for the military with a floor amendment to the House bill. But they are not.

Their principal objection is that the House-approved bill includes a provision to have women between ages 18 and 26 join their male contemporaries in registering for a potential draft with Selective Service. They don’t believe women should be subject to conscription in a national emergency or war. (Any such conscription would supplement the volunteer military and organized reserves.)

The Heritage position and that of Lee and Cruz is wrong for myriad reasons.

First, of course, is that women serve in all branches of the American military and have done so for decades. Second, women have recently been ordered to serve in combat units if they qualify. Third, in my eight years of active and reserve U.S. Marine service, not a single job I had once I finished infantry training at Camp Pendleton could not have been done by a woman with a similar college education. I pushed paper.

I organized training for the hundreds of people in my armored battalion, I organized and supervised their feeding in the field or at the 29 Palms base in the Mojave Desert; I ordered ammunition, made sure the battalion’s tanks were maintained, helped organize and supervise war games, co-chaired the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, edited the battalion newsletter — I did everything, including calling a battalion to “attention.”

Everything I did could have been done by a woman. None of it was dangerous or physically demanding.

So why does the Heritage Foundation/Action oppose women registering for something that might never happen? They say women shouldn’t be exposed to combat, but that is not what is at stake. The chances of women qualifying for volunteer slots in the combat arms are slim. Marine Corps boot camp is hard; I know that women marines do not experience the boot camp I did. Most could never make it through what I did.

I also know that there are very, very few women who could make it through the infantry training I managed to as an 18-year-old, along with thousands of other guys. It was not easy. I trained when “Every Marine was a rifleman.” That day is long past. The horror that Marines of old feared of the Corps being run by “efficiency experts” has come to pass, so to speak. Of 336 different jobs in the Marines, only 20 are denied women.

The Marines objected to allowing women to join combat units after a year-long study. The study showed integrated units of men and women were slower in accomplishing tasks; women lost more duty days because of injuries and illness. Women, as a whole, did not equal men in the physicality needed to be infantry.

Women make up 7.6 percent of the Marines, but 17.8 and 18.7 percent of the Navy and Air Force, respectively.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the military to integrate women into combat units as soon as they qualified after Jan. 1, 2016. The Marines were, and are not, happy.

Nonetheless, arguments by any Marines or Old Salts like this writer are irrelevant in the draft/Selective Service registration debate. The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action cohort are wrong. There are hundreds of job classifications — even in the Marines (316 jobs) — that can be done and are done by women ages 18 to 26. Women have the right to vote, the right and ability to fly combat jets in action, to command combat ships at sea and to push paper.

“Equality” can mean different things to different people, but in this case, Selective Service registration is the ultimate equality in performing one’s duty during a national emergency. Even if it is just pushing paper.

The U.S. Senate cast the Heritage Foundation/Action’s opposition aside and voted to approve the bill, including the draft provision for women. The vote: 85 for and 13 against.

Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of The New York Times Syndicate.


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