Parris Island leader says women can handle combat

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PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — The first female Marine Corps general in charge of its tough-as-nails basic training site on Parris Island says she’s confident women in the Corps will be able to handle combat.

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Brig. Gen. Loretta Reynolds says the Pentagon’s lifting of the combat exclusion against women earlier this year means commanders will be able to “just use the talent that they have. Just use it where they need it. That’s awesome.”

Reynolds was the first woman to command a Marine base in a combat zone when she was put in charge of Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan in 2010. As head of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s headquarters group, she oversaw the base in Helmand province that grew to house 20,000 Marines.

She also commanded a communications battalion in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 in battle-scarred Fallujah.

Now, the Marine Corps has entrusted her with training all its women and nearly half its men. She said young Marines aren’t as concerned about gender as they are about a commander’s ability to lead.

“Anytime you’re going to take your Marines into harm’s way, they are looking for leadership that is calm, assertive, sure of themselves,” Reynolds said in her first extended interview since the ban was lifted. “And quite honestly, I don’t think that some of these young Marines care if it’s a male or a female. They just want to be properly led.”

Reynolds said she doesn’t think the type of basic training both male and female recruits endure on the swampy, insect-filled island outside Beaufort will change much, given the Pentagon’s lifting of the ban.

“We already work them pretty hard,” she said. “We think we give them a solid foundation.”

As one of only two basic training sites for the Marines, Parris Island holds near-legendary status in the branch’s lore. After 12 weeks of arduous training, about 17,000 men and 3,000 women graduate from the tough-love of some 604 drill instructors who determine whether the recruits are worthy of pinning on the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem worn by Marines.

“What we’re looking for here is character, intellect and potential to carry forth our legacy,” Reynolds said.

In January, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the so-called combat exclusion that kept women from serving in units that engage the enemy, such as the infantry, tank and special forces units of the Army and Marine Corps. Their leaders, the service chiefs, have yet to determine exactly what the physical standards are for those jobs, and some roles may still exclude women.

Minimum physical requirements for many hard-core combat jobs had never been established, and the effort to come up with them is still under way, Reynolds pointed out.

“There’s a lot more work to do to figure it out,” the general said.

The Corps has proposed adapting its twice-yearly physical fitness test to require that women complete at least three chin-ups, a standard that men must currently meet. Data is being collected to see whether the standard is appropriate.

In the past decade, men and women have found themselves fighting side-by-side when combat has overtaken support units once considered behind combat lines. More than 150 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

About 7 percent of Marines are female compared to about 14 percent overall for the armed forces.

Reynolds is one of the two active-duty female general officers in the Marine Corps. There are also two other female generals in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Pausing from training on a recent day, recruit Jennifer Martinez of Greenville, Texas, says she followed her father and grandfather into the military, although they both served in the Air Force. The 18-year-old said she thinks she could serve in a combat zone.

“Boot camp has prepared you for everything,” said Martinez. “It’s prepared you mentally, physically, emotionally. Especially with the drill instructors. They do a great job of yelling.”

Overseeing one company of female recruits and drill instructors, 1st Sgt. Rena Bruno says she commanded men during a deployment to Iraq. The petite 110-pound veteran of 13-years in uniform said that as a logistics manager, she dealt with dangerous convoy duty and learned “to hold my pistol a little closer to my body.”

“My Marines were looking at me to guide them and ensure their safety. There was no time to really question that,” Bruno said of being a female commander.

Bruno said women have to train for the challenges, including upper body workouts so they could pull another Marine out of harm’s way, climb up a rope or carry battle armor and weaponry.

“We are focusing more on the whole upper body because we are going to be required to do pull-ups,” Bruno said. “So a lot of our PT (physical training) sessions are geared toward that.”

And can she do pull-ups?

“Guaranteed, I can get up on a pull bar and knock out eight, very easy for me,” she said.

Told of Bruno’s comments, Reynolds lauded the varied roles women have played on the battlefield.

“It’s not all kicking down doors. It’s a lot about ensuring the security of the locals. It’s a lot of the counter-insurgency missions,” that require information female Marines can glean from locals that the males cannot, the general said.

And even the 6-foot, fit and trim Reynolds, who played basketball at the Naval Academy and still goes on early morning runs with her recruits, is preparing for the proposed new standards.

“I’m not ashamed to tell you I can’t do a pull-up yet, but I’m working on it!” the 48-year-old Reynolds said with a laugh.

Reynolds says she has to wonder at the new opportunities now offered women in uniform. And while much was barred in her early days in uniform, she says she never felt she was being short-changed.

“I don’t remember being stuck on, ‘No, Reynolds, you can’t do that,’ “ she said. “If I were to look back after the career I’ve had with regret, shame on me. I’ve been blessed. I’ve had command at every rank.”

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deestafford 03/16/13 - 07:41 pm
This is hog wash! This female knows nothing about Infantrymen

in combat. Just because someone serves in a combat zone does not make them ready for frontline Infantry combat. Getting in a fire fight in a village while sweeping it with a HUMVEE or on a foot patrol is not like being day in and day out in the woods, desert, jungles, or mountains performing as an Infantryman.

Saying "I can do 8 chinups" as that 100 pound female first sergeant did and think she can be a frontline Infantry soldier is asinine. How can she carry a 120-150 pound combat load and walk with it for miles? She can't. And to say basic training prepares one for everything is horse squeeze. Another thing is that copout of saying good leadership can overcome all of these problems is pure ignorance. An Infantry leader in combat has enough on his mind with all the current duties and requirements adding another of handling female soldiers is going to cause mission failure and get people killed.

Women are not phyically able to stand up to the requirements of Infantry duty. Many men cannot. It's just in their biological make up. The Marines did a study called "USMC Women in Service Restrictions Review" and its findings were:
--women on average have 20% lower aerobic power, 40% lower muscle strength, 47% less lifting strength, and 26% slower marching speed than men.
Think about that last one for a second. A man's marching stride is 30 inches and a woman's is 26 inches. If one is on a road march that would mean a woman is behind 400 inches or about 33 feet the man every 100 steps or about every one minute. So in one hour a man will be almost 2000 feet ahead of a woman on the road march. Are you going to ask the man to low down or the woman to speed up? You can do either one and accomplish your mission. You have a time requirement and a woman could not speed up even if she could carry the combat load...which she can't.

Department of Defense studies show women are twice as likely to suffer illnesses and three times more undeployable than men.

I spent 27 years as an Infantryman. Commander/led three units in combat. Commanded two companie in peace time. Commanded a battalion, a task force, and a training command in peacetime. I have been there...on the ground, in the mud, in the jungle, in the rice paddies, and in the swamps. I know what the hellacious life of an Infantryman is like in peace and in war and it is not a place for a woman no matter what the PC leaders of today may say in any study they do. The Army Chief of Staff made a statement a few weeks ago that a woman would graduate from Ranger School within the next year. That will happen only if he orders it and the standards are lowered. The senior leaders in the Army have become geldings.

No country in the world which has a standing, well equiped modern army allows women in its Infantry.

If women are allowed in the Infantry and Special Forces in combat, soldiers will die.

soapy_725 03/16/13 - 07:41 pm
The Designed Destruction of America 101

Lies are better than truth. Dee is absolutely correct. But hey, the military has not been the same for decades. Technology has allowed the generals and politicians more wiggle room to practice "discipline".

The "hair thing" is the most obvious hypocrisy of all. Everything is the same for all recruits. There are no sexual barriers. No problem with all of that baby fat soldier, Ma'am No Ma'am. No more statements about needing a bra. No more statement about weapons and guns.

soapy_725 03/16/13 - 07:39 pm
The truth is the promotion issue for women.

Can we have a joint chief who has not had combat experience? Can you handle the truth miss?

GiantsAllDay 03/16/13 - 08:13 pm
I gave deestafford a green

I gave deestafford a green thumb b/c he has lived the life and walked the walk. He knows whereof he speaks and I have every reason to believe him.

deestafford 03/17/13 - 12:20 am

I did understand you were being facetious. I was/am attacking the lunacy displayed by the military and our leaders in DC when it comes to equality and diiiiversssiiity. I have trained and had female soldiers work for men and many have been just as good as men in the support jobs/fields in which they served; but that's alot difference in being in substained combat with the enemy face to face. I know people who were at West Point when women were admitted for the first time and standards were lowered for them. The "smart" people just don't understand there is a big physical difference between males and females.

It really goes to the liberals wanting to change the culture and traditions of the USA and everything Obama has done without exception has been toward that goal. I can think of no action he has taken which is designed to make us better or stronger.

seenitB4 03/17/13 - 09:18 am
I agree with the men on here

A woman just doesn't have the strength for the way & no just can't pc this & make it work....sorry gals..BUT she can make a great ceo of a company though..:)

Ravenwing 03/17/13 - 10:12 am
Women in combat. can sure tell from the remarks on this issue that most of posters are insecure southern boys... certainly not southern gentlemen. My goodness gentlemen.. pull up your knickers and get used to it.. Women have been and will in combat for years. And before you get into a nasty little snarky mood - I am an an AF brat, and a 71 year old retired DOD - My primary job was to work with soldiers... save it fore someone who doesn't know what they are talking about. PS - I am also from the deep south.. but thanks to Uncle Sam - i got to see more of life and other cultures than most... I't might help with your very narrow perspective of what women are capable of.

itsanotherday1 03/17/13 - 11:35 am

Dee is 100% correct about the infantry part. If you find that rare woman who can meet standards that are not watered down, then go for it. I don't mind the relaxing of the prohibition; for that matter I can't think of any task in or out of the military that should exclude women, provided they can **meet the traditional standards for the job.

** And I mean MEET them, not some watered down PC version.

freeradical 03/17/13 - 02:02 pm
Can't Even Combat Being Raped

This is a bunch of politcally correct crap being foisted upon a military

already deminished by it's reflection of an increasingly morally corrupt

society .

I know a little about the military as well and at this very moment the

women in it are being raped by their fellow soldiers at proportions that

are being described by the pentagon themselves as " EPIDEMIC " .

So much so that there is an all out campaign to " educate " within

the military .

Yes , just like society in general the military is just as lost & clueless

in a moral crisis as the rest of the depraved populace , and sees

" education " as the answer .

The point is today's female military member cannot even combat themselves

from being raped in epidemic numbers let alone fight an enemy that

would be looking to rape them as well .

Maybe it can be worked out in the rocket slide ride to hell in which we

are heading .

May be in the heat of battle the women can be pimped out for

military advantage .

Is there any doubt this nation is condemned ?

dstewartsr 03/17/13 - 06:55 pm
"Parris Island leader..."

Like the way that was written; didn't write it was a woman saying it- a woman who admits her own physical failing to even approach a male standard. But she knows.

Next week, I'm running a column on the problems of childbirth.

dstewartsr 03/17/13 - 07:08 pm
"...senior leaders in the Army have become geldings."

That's not recent. No so-called leader in the US military advances by telling the truth; every year they obediently troop up to Congress and say all is well with the world and they are happy in it. Next promotion list, there's another star in a shotgun envelope. Tell the truth, and it's early retirment.

In every war, at the beginning we get our a-double-esses handed to us because of generalship that would embarrass the French caused by this system. General Eisenhower spent years as "Bugout Doug" McArthur's aide de camp. When he abandoned his command -- which was captured because of his sheer incompetence-- he left better men to face the horrors of Japanese war crimes. Congress gave him a medal. General Starry who botched the hostage rescue at Desert One was given another star and took over Training and Doctrine Command. And so it goes.

Do not wait for one of the professional eunuchs to tell Congress this is criminally stupid. I have a better chance of being elected Pope.

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