Dunford Deserves Credit For Sticking To His Guns On Women In Combat

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Department of Defense photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

The debate over the integration of women into combat arms roles hit a contentious point earlier this month, as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said his recommendation to the secretary of defense will be to open all roles to women in the Navy and Marine Corps. This came on the heels of a controversial report by the Marine Corps on the results of its Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force. Marines involved in that task force found that women performed equal or below in most all cases to the lowest 5% of men as a group, according to a since-deleted Facebook post from Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted advisor for the Marines’ Training and Education Command.


Then, reports from the Associated Press stated that the Marine Corps intends to dissent from Mabus and the other branches to appeal for an exception on integrating women into certain roles. The Marine Corps would be the only branch to do so.  

This controversy places Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford in a extremely difficult position. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dunford is the highest-ranking general in the U.S. military. He has been in that role for just three days, having previously been commandant of the Marine Corps. If the Associated Press reports about the Marine Corps breaking from the secretary on the Navy about women in combat roles are true, Dunford put them in motion.  

This puts the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at odds on this with the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, who have both been on record supporting women integration into direct combat-related jobs. The Marine Corps is the only service that has voiced its of opposition to women in direct combat related roles and will reportedly request an exemption. This recommendation, for which Dunford will have laid the groundwork, will have to go through the secretary of the Navy and the secretary of defense. Both the secretaries of the Navy and defense work closely with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who serves as the top uniformed advisor to the president. Dunford will be in the difficult political position of advising the president and the Defense Department about women in combat roles, and this challenge has been made tougher by his actions at the end of his tenure as commandant.

In laying the groundwork for this fight, it appears that Dunford is not worried about agreeing with the secretary of the Navy or the secretary of defense on this and he is willing to place his judgement ahead of political pressure. In the tough times that we face militarily in the world, leaders like Dunford are exactly who we need.

Our military and country deserve leaders who will be honest with them and maintain the highest levels of integrity regarding controversial issues like this. It is comforting to know that we have generals who are willing to stay true to their own opinions in the face of pressure.

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Roys)

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First came the explosion. Then, the cover-up.

"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed. He died in my arms."

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USS Iowa on April 19, 1989. (Wikipedia Commons)

It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.

"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."

On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.

Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.

"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"

Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.

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Jason Sutton

As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a newly minted second lieutenant, I felt well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing a junior field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. When the time came to leave the Army, however, I was much less prepared to make the transition into the yet-unknown civilian sector.

One of the primary issues facing veterans after we transition is that we lack the same sense of purpose and mission that we had with our military careers. Today, more than ever, our service members volunteer to put themselves in harm's way. They are defending our freedom across the globe and should be recognized as our country's true heroes. It's critical that employers educate veterans and provide viable options so we can make informed decisions about the rest of our lives.

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Maj. Gen. David Furness

The two-star general in charge of the roughly 15,000-strong 2nd Marine Division has turned micromanagement into an art form with a new policy letter ordering his Marines and sailors to cut their hair, shave their faces, and adhere to a daily schedule that he has prescribed.

In his "Policy Letter 5-19," Maj. Gen. David Furness lamented that he has noticed "a significant decline in the basic discipline" of troops he's come in contact with in the division area, which has led him to "FIX IT immediately," instead of relying on the thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers below him to carry out his orders.

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