In 1980, I became an Army Drill Sergeant assigned to one of two Basic Combat Training battalions at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Fort McClellan was the former home of the Women’s Army Corps and then the current home of a Training Brigade with Military Police Corps One Station Unit Training (OSUT), the Chemical Corps School and two Basic Training Battalions. When I arrived at Fort McClellan, Major General Mary Clark was the training center commander. The first oddity I encountered was male Soldiers wearing their fatigue shirts outside their trousers. I never heard solid reasoning for that, but some said it was the hot climate and most of us assumed it was because in those days the female fatigue uniform differed from the male uniform and for them the shirt was worn out. I thought, like most, that MG Clark wanted male and female appearance to be the same. On the day of her change of command ceremony, the shirt-tails out policy changed but the Alabama heat mirage continued to rise from the hard top.
Drill Sergeant Candidates were called turtles by the qualified badge wearing Drill Sergeants. In those days, you were a Drill Sergeant Candidate until the Company’s First Sergeant cleared you for school. When I finished turtle time and returned from school, I inherited from a departing Drill Sergeant a platoon of females who were about to enter range week. It was a female platoon integrated into a company with male platoons. I would have this experience one other time with males and females in the same training company. The female platoons experienced more physical injuries than the male platoons. Recycles and Trainee Discharges were higher. Leg and pelvic stress fractures were common caused by females over striding to keep pace with males during road marches and carrying loads they were not physically equipped to carry. There were also the antics of boys and girls with raging hormones. We busted them in the fire escape stairwells, storage rooms, bathrooms and right in the platoon bay. This was a training distraction that spilled over into the training day. For me, this was the last cycles of integrated training because somewhere up the chain seasoned Soldiers decided it was not the best environment for basic combat training.
After that, I trained females in all female companies all of which outperformed the females integrated into a company with male Soldiers. Male Soldiers I trained also performed better in all male companies. Gender segregated training continued until I completed my Drill Sergeant tour and for some years after. By the time my son graduated basic training in the mid 90s at Fort Jackson, South Carolina his training platoon was integrated all the way down to squad level.
In 1997, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen of the Clinton administration commissioned the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender Integrated Training and Other Issues charged to assess initial entry training programs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The final report submitted to the Secretary of Defense December 16, 1997 contained “recommendations on how to best train our Gender-integrated, all volunteer force to ensure it is disciplined, effective and ready.” I know my views may be considered Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon but recommendations from this committee for toughening standards for initial entry training (IET), having separate barracks for males and females during IET, keeping training segregated at and below platoon level, and having more female trainers to train and role model for female trainees, should have been taken. I guess these were not the politically correct culture shifting choices. Secretary Cohen didn’t like the findings so he commissioned another committee to provide him with the answers he wanted. He was a social engineer. It is just another example of political or ideological choices forcing leader time in directions other than their primary mission of training Soldiers. I wrote about this topic in an exchange with Stephanie Guttman while she was writing her book, The Kinder, Gentler Military: How Political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars. A portion of the essay appears in the book. It was also published on my website and garnered me some interesting email and comments. One snarky young sergeant asked me if I was afraid to say vagina. I asked him if that had a military nomenclature.
© 2017 J. D. Pendry