Strategy Page on the political win of just requiring the US Marine Corps and Special Operations Command to integrate their front-line troops (integrate women into their front-line units, that is):
In early December, after years of trying to justify allowing women into the infantry, artillery and armor and special operations forces, the U.S. government simply ordered the military to make it happen and do so without degrading the capabilities of these units. While the army was inclined the just say yes, find out what quotas the politicians wanted and go through the motions, some others refused to play along. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and the marines pointed out that the research does not support the political demands and that actually implementing the quotas could get people killed while degrading the effectiveness of the units with women. This is yet another reason why many politicians do not like the marines and are uneasy about SOCOM. The commander of SOCOM promptly said the order would be implemented (otherwise he can kiss his upcoming promotion goodbye) but the Marine Corps has, as in the past, not voiced any enthusiasm at all. This decision involves about 220,000 jobs. About ten percent of these are special operations personnel, commonly known as commandos.
The special operations troops are not happy with this decision. In a recent survey most (85 percent) of the operators (commandos, SEALs, Rangers) in SOCOM opposed allowing women in. Most (88 percent) feared that standards would be lowered in order to make it possible for some women to quality. Most (82 percent) believed that women did not have the physical strength to do what was required. About half (53 percent) would not trust women placed in their unit. For these men the decision is a matter of life and death and SOCOM commanders fear that the decision, if implemented, would cause many of the most experienced operators to leave and dissuade many potential recruits from joining. Keeping experienced personnel and finding suitable new recruits has always been a major problem for SOCOM and this will make it worse.
That said there are some jobs SOCOM operators do that women can handle. One is espionage, an area that SOCOM has been increasingly active in since the 1990s because of their familiarity with foreign cultures and operator skills and discipline. Another task women excel at is teaching. Israel has long recognized this and some of their best combat skills instructors are women. But what the male operators are complaining about is women performing the jobs that still depend on exceptional physical as well as mental skills. These include direct action (raids, ambushes and such) and recon (going deep into hostile territory to patrol or just observe.) These are the most dangerous jobs and many operators are not willing to make the job even more dangerous just to please some grandstanding politicians.
This order has been “under consideration” for three years. The various services had already opened up some infantry training programs to women and discovered two things. First (over 90 percent) of women did not want to serve in any combat unit, especially the infantry. Those women (almost all of them officers) who did apply discovered what female athletes and epidemiologists (doctors who study medical statistics) have long known; women are ten times more likely (than men) to suffer bone injuries and nearly as likely to suffer muscular injuries while engaged in stressful sports (like basketball) or infantry operations. Mental stress is another issue and most women who volunteered to try infantry training dropped out within days because of the combination of mental and physical stress. Proponents of women in combat (none of them combat veterans) dismiss these issues as minor and easily fixed but offer no tangible or proven solutions.