It may not be any of the things we think, and it may be all of them. It may be what the Chief of Staff has said (it’s about future GO promotions for women officers). It may be that, as he’s more or less admitted, that the civilian suitosphere in the Pentagon is leaning on him. Ultimately, he works for them, serves at their pleasure and does what they jolly well want.
But the top Army officer’s insecurity and envy of the US Marine Corps is probably a factor. Now, it’s always risky to psychoanalyze anyone, even if that person is in front of you, even if you are a licensed psychoanalyst. But it’s hard to avoid reading some Army-Marine psychology into the way the future Rangerettes got rolling along.
See, we’ve discovered that, contrary to what we w the Chief of Staff did not send a written operations order to Ft. Benning, which used to be the Infantry Center and School, and is now the infantry-ectomied Maneuver Center of Excellence. (Hey, didn’t GM start badging their cars with the “GM Mark of Excellence” during the period that the cars started rusting on dealer lots, Vega pistons seizing in alloy cylinders, and Corvairs flipping like a family of acrobats? Yeah, they did. Does this mean that self-bestowed recognitions of “Excellence” are often a mark of institutional flailing and self-deception? You be the judge). The Chief of Staff phoned MG Robert B. Brown to give him the women in Ranger School (and not just Ranger School) FRAGO verbally — no incriminating paperwork that way, just MG Brown’s notes, which are certainly deniable on GEN Odierno’s end of the phone.
Now that’s a stand-up guy. It’s not like he’s betting his Ranger tab! (Heck, it’s not like he has one to bet).
But the first thing on the call, at least, as MG Brown memorialized it and passed it on to his faithful henchmen at what was once the Infantry Center and School, was that the Marines had announced (presser here) that they were going to let women into their equivalent of Infantry Officers’ Basic Course. GEN Odierno, who is somewhat of a foreigner to infantry culture, had been unable to articulate a reason why the Army was not doing the same thing — at least, not a reason that passed the laugh test with his civilian overseers.
(Suggestion: the Marines teach that every Marine is an infantryman. That is a core tenet in Marine culture. In the Army it is not, and we give you the career of GEN Raymond F., excuse us, Raymond T. Odierno as an illustration. But then, SF guys need to think on their feet, and deal positively with people of the whole wide range of humanity, while artillery officers need to be able to do specific math calculations, and maintain a haughty distance from their enlisted livestock. You could say we’re acculturated differently).
The generals went on to discuss their inability to “link the current standards to an operational requirement, ” explain why various schools at Benning “have the standards they do,” or articulate a reason for excluding women from any MOS or assignment, period.
There was more, much more, in the telephonic FRAGO and the implementation discussions that followed, but one of the directives was that we’re going to one-up the USMC by having our ladies do Ranger School. That way, maybe the budget cuts that are coming will not hit the Army as much harder than the Marines, if we can prove to the budget cutters in the Pentagon that we can match them personnel policy for personnel policy.
But what about Infantry Officers Basic? What about direct combat assignments? Yeah, they talked about that too, but let’s stick to Ranger School right now.
Another clue in GEN Odierno’s statement to the press is his frequent and seemingly reflexive recourse to buzz words that come not from the Army’s own very plush lexicon of bullshit, which has a buzzword for everything a general could possibly need and thousands of unnecessary ones besides, but from politics and specifically the Obama campaign. You can’t listen to the general for long without hearing “progressive,” “progress,” and specifically, about women in Ranger school (and in the other shoe we’re still about to drop) “the progressive way forward.” This is not to say that the General has any politics of his own at all, he has been properly reticent on that score as anyone in uniform should be. It merely indicates that he knows the words and concepts that induce Pavlovian responses in his bosses.
So welcome to the new dawn, building a Novy Sovietskiy Chelovek, military style: an interchangeable unit without obsolete individual differences like sex. It is not an experiment, because the experiment’s Stakhanovite success has been decreed ab initio. It worked great last time. No word on whether implementation will measured according to five-year plans.
More to come this week.