Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Sonoran Switchback, the personal blog of Shelly Burgoyne.
I’m no sociologist, I have no anthropological training but I’m certain of this … we live in a world where the squandering of women’s talent, the traducing of their potential, is a global disgrace … It wipes away the barriers to achieving potential and sends a clarion call to all who serve that talent will prevail, not gender. Armies that revel in their separateness from civil society, that value the male over the female, that use their imposed values to exclude those that don’t fit the particular traits of the dominant group, who celebrate the violence that is integral to my profession rather than seek ways to contain it … they do nothing to distinguish the soldier from the brute. —Chief of the Australian Army, Lt. Gen. David Morrison
On June 2, Spc. Tinita Taylor, a qualified soldier with two X chromosomes whose primary profession is not infantry, graduated from the Army’s new challenging jungle operations training course. The soldier had this to say about her experience:
This is infantry we’re talking about here. These are guys who know they’re going to war and know they’re going to get into firefights. Me being there, of course I was not accepted at first. Every day, for the first two weeks, they’d wake up and say, “She didn’t leave yet?” They tested me the whole time I was there until the last week, until they finally said, “Taylor, you’re not going nowhere, we’re so proud of you.” They just want to see you prove yourself without any favoritism. They want to see you do what they do because they do this every day. Infantry doesn’t play. They respected me at the end, but I earned my respect.
So what exactly is the jungle operations training course? This new Army combat course is conducted in Hawaii and designed to train our young soldiers in the lost art of jungle warfare. The Army has been at war for over a decade in the desert, neglecting to train its soldiers in a subtropical environment. This course, like Ranger school, is extremely difficult, physically taxing and mentally demanding. However, with that said, jungle operations, like Ranger school, is never a soldier’s primary occupational specialty. Like Ranger school it is just that, a school.
Like airborne school, air assault school, combat dive school, etc., the jungle operations course is an opportunity for a soldier to become certified in an extra set of warfighting skills.
So, if a female soldier was allowed to pursue a jungle operations certification, why do female soldiers continue to be banned from accessing the Army’s elite Ranger school? Why is Ranger school different?
Many men in our military are supportive and frankly champions of equal access for qualified women to all combat professions and schools. However, there are those, belonging to a dwindling population in our nation’s armed forces, who vocally believe that special operations, the infantry, and Ranger school are just too difficult for women, and that ultimately they are the sacred place of men.
These arguments no longer hold any validity in our society and serious thinkers on the subject no longer entertain them, and neither will I. What I will address, however, are the dishonest group of holdouts who publicly place themselves among the supporters of combat integration, but secretly oppose the integration of women into combat jobs.This oppositional group, which comprises mostly men already assigned to combat arms professions, endorses all the same antiquated ideas of women and their place in our society that I just mentioned, but won’t come out and publicly say it. They know that their beliefs no longer hold water in our society, that their counterparts will no longer tolerate such ignorance.
To delay the directive to give women equal access to all combat professions and schools, these individuals employ countless tests and studies with flawed methodologies stacked against women service members. They hire research teams. They rattle off terms like “critical mass,” “strength standards,” “muscle composition,” “cardio capacity,” etc.
To distract the American public, they list reasons like: “She is not infantry why does she need a Ranger tab?,” “Women in the Army don’t really want this,” “This is a political experiment.” All of these new “reasons” are simply the last desperate and veiled attempts to ban women from accessing these elite courses due simply to their gender.
They tell the American people that only soldiers who are infantry soldiers need to attend Ranger school, and because qualified female soldiers are not yet able to serve in our nation’s infantry, they should not be allowed to attend the Ranger course. Yet, many male soldiers who are not infantry soldiers become Ranger-qualified every year — chaplains, armor soldiers, medical officers. You see, the Army believes that it is beneficial to have Ranger-qualified soldiers in many professions.
Based on the direct order to integrate women into all jobs and schools by 2015, it seems to me illegal and a complete disregard for a direct order to continue to ban women from Ranger school. After all, Ranger school, like all other combat schools, is no longer reserved for men, it is reserved for warfighters.
It is the hope of many female service members that by next year the first-qualified woman will have earned the right and the honor to wear the coveted Ranger tab. In fact, Tinita Taylor said it is her goal to be the first female soldier to complete Ranger school.
Many women, just like many men, in the military do want this. It is not a political experiment, it is equality based on qualification; I can think of no other profession in our free nation that bans someone simply due to his or her chromosome make-up.
Shelly Burgoyne-Goode is a former Army Officer. She served two tours in Iraq, leading combat resupply convoys to forward units. She is a Tillman Military Scholar, veteran advocate, military blogger, and writer.