SECNAV Mabus rejects your reality and substitutes his own.

As you undoubtedly knew would happened when you read this post yesterday, SECNAV Mabus has begun sweeping the results of the Marine Corps integrated combined arms test under the rug, with the added bonus of accusing the reports authors of bad faith.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that female Marines in a mixed unit did not perform as well as men in several key areas. 

“They started out with a fairly largely component of the men thinking this is not a good idea, and women will not be able to do this,” he said in an interview with NPR.

“When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome,” he said. 

Just down from there we find this:

Mabus argued that other studies, including one by the Center for Naval Analysis, say there are ways to mitigate gaps in performance “so you have the same combat effectiveness, the same lethality, which is crucial.” 

You probably can mitigate the gap in performance. What you cannot do is eliminate it. So you do, in actuality, have a gap. That means you don’t have the same combat effectiveness. You don’t have the same lethality.

“Part of the study said women tend not to be able to carry as heavy a load for as long, but there were women who went through the study who could,” he said.

“And part of the study said we’re afraid because women get injured more frequently that over time, women will break down more, that you’ll begin to lose your combat effectiveness over time.

“That was not shown in the study, that was an extrapolation based on injury rates,” he said. 

No kidding. Here’s something you may not realize. Sports type injuries are incredibly common in the combat arms. Torn ACL, rotator cuff injuries, sprains, strains, torn muscles. And the longer a unit is deployed, the more common these injuries become, as the physical conditioning of troops is effected by poor diet, lack of sleep, lack of regular physical fitness training, and simply the accumulation of wear and tear by operating at an incredibly punishing level of physicality.

Now, even outside the strains of combat, just in training, even in non-combat units, women have a much greater rate of sports type injuries than men. It is entirely reasonable to extrapolate that experience already acknowledged across the force, if not much talked about, and compare that with the increased injury rate seen in the integrated test force, and reach the conclusion that injury rates will be worse.

And here’s the thing about these injuries. They take a troop out of the fight just as surely as if they were wounded. They have to be evacuated. They have to be treated. They have to be given physical therapy and convalescence. And that means the unit, always short on manpower, is down further, for the length of that convalescence, if indeed the injured troop will ever be fit for duty again. Very quickly, a unit might find itself with so many injured that it simply cannot accomplish its missions.

And let us not overlook the fact that many of these injuries will form the basis of claims for service connected disability from the Veterans Administration after the troop has left the service. Knowing that women will suffer higher rates of injury, it stands to reason that it will also impose a higher cost in disability for the entire life of the injured. Why, when the VA is already struggling, would we knowingly increase the burden on the already shaky foundations of veterans healthcare?

I’ve seen countless blatherings about how adding women to combat arms is the only fair thing to do. What I’ve never seen once yet is an explanation showing that integrating the combat arms will increase their performance.

Amtracs in Action

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to ride in (and even occasionally drive) quite a few different armored vehicles. For the most part, riding in one is pretty much like another. Loud, fairly uncomfortable, and rather bumpy. One that I’ve always had a hankering for, but never achieved, was the USMC’s AAV-7A1 Amtrac.

The AAV-7 family has been in service since the early 1970s, and is descended from a series of amphibious tractors, or Landing Vehicle Tracked from World War II. They bring the unique capability of landing assault forces ashore from the sea. While several Army armored vehicles, such as the M113 were technically amphibious, they were only capable of swimming in calm waters such as lakes or slow moving rivers. Amtracs, on the other hand, are quite comfortable swimming in open water, and can handle surf as high as eight feet.

http://www.enemyforces.net/apc/aav7_2.jpg

From the earliest days of armored infantry, the Army has always tried to tie one vehicle to one rifle squad.* For instance, in World War II, an Armored Infantry squad would all be mounted on one M3 halftrack. Similarly, the later M113 equipped units would have one rifle squad tied to one carrier.

Space is always at a premium on amphibious shipping. That is, there is never enough room for all the things the Marine commander embarked wants to carry. Since the capacity of an armored vehicle increases quite a bit for relatively modest increases in size, the Marines have always had a somewhat different philosophy toward how their troop units integrate with their armored personnel carriers. Rifle companies and battalions don’t own their own carriers. Instead, the amtrac battalion belongs to the division, who parcels out companies and platoons as needed to support the various infantry units.

Whereas an Army M113 platoon would have 4 carriers, and the three rifle squads of the platoon, a Marine amtrac platoon has 12 carriers, and their crews, but no infantry troops of their own.

http://images.military.com/media/equipment/military-vehicles/aav7-amphibious-assault-vehicle/aav7-amphibious-assault-vehicle-07.jpg

Each AAV-7, in addition to its crew, can carry 18 Marines. Given that Marine rifle squads have 13 men, that means some creative task organization goes into loading each AAV. Each AAV has a driver, and a vehicle commander. The commander’s station also has a cupola armed with a .50cal machine gun and a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. There is a third topside hatch for the troop commander as well.

http://battleforearth.com/military/nations/us/vehicles/land/aavp7/images/04.jpg

In addition to the basic carrier, there are other versions built on the same basic hull, including a recovery vehicle version and a commanders version.

The fleet of vehicles has been upgraded over the years. Interestingly, the last round of upgrades saw much of its suspension and powertrain replaced with Bradley components.

The Marines have a fleet of about 1300 AAVs, in two active and one reserve battalions, as well as prepositioned in various theaters and war reserves. The AAV-7 is also in service with South Korea, Brazil, Italy, Taiwan, Chile, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela, and others. Argentina used 20 of its AAV-7s in the initial assault landings in the 1982 Falklands War, but they returned to Argentina before the British counterattack.

The AAV-7 was to have been replaced in Marine service by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle beginning in 2013, but the cancellation of that program has left the Marines looking for a new, cheaper replacement, and struggling to keep the AAV-7 fleet operational for some time to come.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5FdBGjl_6s]

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM4H11-_8U0]

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k6S1hk2sVk]

 

*With a few very minor exceptions that resulted in only very limited production.

Another MoH recommendation.

The Marines have recommended that a Marine be bestowed the Medal of Honor for his actions during the War on Terror.

A Marine has been recommended for the Medal of Honor for actions in combat in Afghanistan, Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos told reporters Saturday in San Diego.

Amos said the recommendation, which must be reviewed by the secretary of the Navy, secretary of defense, and President Obama, was made by his predecessor, Gen. James Conway.

Amos, who succeeded Conway two weeks ago, said that the recommendation was made after a thorough investigation that filled a binder and detailed the Marine’s bravery. “I read it cover-to-cover,” he said. “It watered my eyes.”

It’s about damn time. I certainly don’t want to see the Medal of Honor, or any other award for valor, watered down. But it is also important to recognize valor. That’s the whole point of bestowing awards. And it is as important to recognize those warriors who perform above and beyond the call of duty and survive. Telling your troops the only way to excel is to die is the wrong message.

I certainly hope the secretaries and the President will approve this recommendation (I have a pretty good idea which Marine they’re talking about, but I’ll wait for official comment).

As an historical aside, did you know there are really three different Medals of Honor? There are distinct medals for the Army, the Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, and the Air Force.

Here’s the Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard medal.