Be all that you can be
On combat pilots, gender stereotypes, and the resource that really wins wars
The Sergeant Major of the Army has relayed a veteran's story of being rescued from mortal danger by a helicopter pilot who went above and beyond the call of duty -- by firing a personal weapon out the open door of the aircraft after exhausting the rest of her ammunition.
■ The pilot's pronoun, of course, is what makes some people angry. There remain lots of armchair generals who think that large ranges of people should be excluded from lots of military service, including combat roles. They are often from the same realms as those who fantasize about the purported masculine superiority of the Russian army or who complain about even the most modest steps to promote inclusion among the profession of arms.
■ There is little defense for the exclusionary position. Vignettes like the helicopter pilot with alternative weaponry should alone be enough to dismiss categorical arguments for keeping all but the "manly men" out of the military. But so should a basic resort to logic: Even if all that mattered were brute hand-to-hand combat, sheer muscle size and masculinity wouldn't be enough.
■ There are lots of diminuitive martial artists who could neutralize people much larger than themselves, merely by using smarter techniques. And modern warfare is really no different, in the sense that it's only quite rarely a matter of raw physical strength. It's far more about finding creative, smart, and imaginative people who can solve problems in clever ways, rather than in those that are most costly. And any force that would exclude half its potential brains by prohibiting women would be insane.