WOMEN AT THE INFANTRY SCHOOL -- SAY IT ISN'T SO
DAVID H. HACKWORTH

OK, I confess. I work out three times a week with my wife and a bunch of other women. It's called the Bar Method, and you can sign up and do the drill in both Connecticut and California studios.

I'm blowing the whistle on myself because my buddies at "Fox and Friends" were about to out me. Seems Steve and Brian, two young bucks, are a little peeved that I, at 70-plus, can whip them at push-ups.

The Bar Method is the toughest fitness course I've struck -- including parachute training, which back in the Brown Shoe Army was four weeks of sheer torture. It's even harder than the routine I set for the Wolfhound Raiders, an elite commandolike unit I led during the Korean War.

I'm usually the only guy. Lots of strapping studs show up, but they don't stick around long. The strain and pain are just too much for these newbies, who start as alpha males but soon quit, normally after their first class.

Makes a fellow ponder who's the superior sex.

I wasn't around women soldiers in the Army. In my time, they did the doctoring and paperwork. Never saw a woman where the bullets flew in either Korea or Vietnam. But what this training has given me -- besides being push-up king at "Fox" -- is an even greater respect for women. They're tough and tenacious, with a triple issue of pure grit.

Does this new awareness of the courage, strength and tenacity of women mean I'm now into women becoming combat warriors?

No way!

Matter of fact, I still think putting women in combat is flat nuts. Even doing the Bar Method daily, the average woman wouldn't have the upper-body strength to drag a casualty off a fire-swept field or pack a 100-pound rucksack -- or fly an aircraft that's lost its hydraulics.

Imagine if our recon plane that's still hostage in Red China had women pilots flying that broken sucker instead of the two male hulks who look like they'd fit fine in the front line of the Giants!

Billy Scott was a brave combat medic in my Hardcore Battalion in Vietnam. But his aid bag was almost as big as he was -- and his mates well knew he didn't have the strength to pull a wounded grunt to safety. Even though Billy had the right stuff, he couldn't cut it in the critical area of soldier trust.

Paul Dillon, a rifleman in my platoon in Korea, was about Billy's size. Another liability. We left him behind with the cooks.

My seven years of combat experience as an infantryman, from rifleman to squad and platoon leader to company and then battalion CO, screams that combat arms work isn't for women. And my years of covering nine conflicts as a reporter reinforces this view -- especially Desert Storm, where I saw women in all services fail the combat course. A study commissioned by George-the-Elder, then shelved when the Clinton gang put the woman vote over combat readiness, confirms my on-the-scene evaluation.

The distraction factor can't be ignored, either. Unless you've been locked up in a prison all your life, you know that young men and women really lose it when they're around each other. If joy-riding civilians distracted one of our sub crews to the point where they sank a Japanese ship off Hawaii, can you imagine the havoc female submariners could cause? If the dozens of 50-year-old generals and admirals who've been fired in the past decade alone couldn't keep their hands off their female subordinates, what can we expect from the younger bloods?

The U.S. Army Infantry School in Columbus, Ga., is now experimenting with women lieutenants attending the basic infantry officer course. Will this further lower the standards and be the final nail in the coffin to kill the development of hard-charging warrior leaders?

The Pentagon is currently determining how to transform the military into a more agile, lethal and stealthy force, a force fit to fight in the 21st century. Before it spends a dime on new wonder gear, it should dust off the Desert Storm study and decide whether the experiment to have our daughters become combat warriors will cost us the next war.

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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
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