Mattis still has concerns about women serving in combat units

news
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stands with Marines before a sunset parade at the Marine Barracks Washington in Arlington, Va., June 30, 2017. (DoD/Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested Tuesday that the nation should think again about putting young men and women together in ground combat units at a time when they tend to "grow very fond of one another."

Regarding women serving on the battlefield, "I'm not against the issue intrinsically," he said, but added that more leadership guidance is necessary to implement such a major cultural and societal change.


Mattis said his concern is that decisions on integrating women into combat units will be left to young lieutenants and noncommissioned officers in the field.

"When you're going to make a change that drastic, make sure that what you've done is set up those NCOs and young officers for success, and make sure it makes the military more lethal," he said.

The former defense secretary and retired Marine general added, "We had better not just say, 'Here, Sergeant, you figure it out. It's your problem.' No, no, no, it's society's problem."

Mattis noted the unique stresses of a combat environment, saying that careful thought should be given before putting young men and women in front-line units "at a time when they grow very fond of one another, and a respect for their sexuality should be part of that decision."

Mattis made the remarks at a Council of Foreign Relations forum in response to a question posed by former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a retired Marine colonel, who asked whether women should be in Marine rifle platoons.

Under former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, all military occupational specialties were opened to women who qualify, but Mattis said the integration into ground combat units poses unique challenges.

"We have to be darned careful" about how the policy is put into effect, he said.

In combat, "the veneer of civilization is peeled off you completely and, at times, you're just fighting to keep from going insane or losing your ethics and morality," Mattis said.

He has stoked the debate over women in combat before.

In a September 2018 address to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, Mattis said, "Clearly, the jury is out" on whether women in combat roles make units more effective, "but what we're trying to do is give it every opportunity to succeed if it can."

He had been asked for his thoughts on the subject by a male VMI cadet, who noted that "there are a lot of badass women here," some of them more physically fit and smarter than he was.

Mattis said the policy on women in combat was "inherited" from Carter, but "I'm open to it, and I'll be working with the chief of staff of the Army and the others to sort it out."

His remarks at VMI brought criticism from the Service Women's Action Network advocacy group.

By saying he inherited the policy, Mattis was "tacitly endorsing efforts to undermine the success of the women currently serving in the infantry and in combat arms," the group said in a statement at the time.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com:

Photo: Twitter

For an organization that is constantly shining a light on things that would rather be kept out of the public eye, the moderators of U.S. Army WTF! Moments have done a remarkably impressive job at staying anonymous.

That is, until Monday.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that a nightmare scenario has come to pass: Captured ISIS fighters are escaping as a result of Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria.

Turkey's incursion has led to "the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees," Esper said in a statement on Monday.

Read More Show Less
ABC News anchor Tom Llamas just before his network airs grossly inaccurate footage

Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.

On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.

Read More Show Less