Searching for wise men

December 23, 1997|By Cal Thomas

AND IT came to pass in those days in Washington that a decree went out from the Pentagon. Eleven supposedly wise men and women were chosen to study the question of whether putting young men and women together in close quarters during basic military training might lead to sexual activity. At a cost to taxpayers probably surpassing the value of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the panel not only concluded that sex happens among recruits, but also that the sexes should be separated during the initial phases of military training. They also found (surprise!) that boot camp has gone soft.

Predictable result

These are hardly tidings of great joy. In fact, they are as predictable as the prophecy that combustible materials in a hot place are likely to ignite.

The panel, headed by former Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, remains committed to ''gender integration,'' but not until after a few weeks of segregation. ''By separating men and women in their own barracks, you would have fewer disciplinary problems and a better sense of unit cohesion and team building,'' the panel concluded.

Military training softened when standards were lowered to accommodate female recruits. What the panel didn't address is how training will be toughened if women again fail to meet higher standards. The objective of the feminists has been total equality between male and female service personnel. So what will happen when the irresistible force of politics comes up against the immovable object of military strength? Something's gotta give.

The Clinton administration has been the primary impetus behind gender-integrated basic training. The results have been obvious for some time to those not blinded by politics. After touring U.S. military facilities last summer, Rep. Stephen Buyer, R-Ind., chairman of the subcommittee on military personnel, told the Navy Times: ''Wherever we were, whether it was on the USS John Kennedy with the Navy or at Army training centers, there was a general complaint about the product coming out of basic (( training. We were left with the impression they are soft, and basic training is not enough. They've weakened the standards, and we're concerned about it.''

How weak are they? At the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, recruits are shown a video telling them that ''physically, anybody can make it through boot camp,'' a statement that devalues the prestige associated with conquering boot camp and the toughness recruits need to develop. According to Time magazine, recruits at Great Lakes no longer drill with rifles, because the Navy (which used rifles in training until 1996) now regards them as anachronistic.

The Army could call its training ''sneaker camp,'' because recruits no longer run with combat boots. The Army has substituted jogging apparel. Drill instructors have been warned not to verbally berate their recruits. And basic combat skills are receiving less emphasis. According to a 1997 report by the Army Inspector General: ''There is no clearly articulated or enforced standard for soldierization skills to graduate from Initial Entry Training.''

Are we willing to pay the price of a weakened military so that politicians and feminists can have their way in the emasculation of our armed services? Tragically, they will have failed to equip a fighting force to prevail in the next war when they are needed to defend their country and themselves.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 12/23/97

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