A Rhino Den Conversation – Women in Combat

Updated: January 25, 2013

Editor’s Note: What you see posted on The Rhino Den barely scratches the surface as to what goes on behind the scenes with our motley crew of writers.  From time-to-time I am going to post excerpts from rather lengthy email strings. Here is an example of an email discussion that has been reformatted and edited to portray a conversation. – RU Rob

By Mr. Twisted and Jack Mandaville

The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, recently released a statement that, by 2016, women would be allowed in all combat jobs in the military, thus ending over 200 years’ worth of tradition for them to…well, not be in combat jobs. I sat down with Jack Mandaville to have a look at this topic from the point of view of a couple used-to-be grunts.

Mr. Twisted: “Jack, what are your thoughts on this decision from SecDef…wait, are you already drunk?”

Jack: “I’m not sure. It’s been a steady mix of Bailey’s and coffee for me for about three hours now. Not sure if I’m drunk or overly caffeinated. I do know I’ll probably need to purge in the next hour or so, though.

“So what’s your question, man?”

Mr. Twisted: “Well, it was something about women in combat. But with you being overly caffeinated and/or simultaneously drunk, I’m wondering…is that a guy’s only trait, or do you think women could pull that off? I mean, after all, I think that’s the basis for any seasoned warrior — the ability to maintain a droning, semi-conscious awareness of all things while still being influenced by both stimulants and depressants.”

Jack: “Of course women could pull it off. Look at Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin. These were two strong, independent women who defied the notion that only men can be self-destructive… and they did it with both class and dignity–which puts them in the same echelon as guys like Jimi Hendrix, Jack Kerouac and Heath Ledger.

“The real question is, can both men and women party together without any major disturbances to the force?”

Mr. Twisted: “So, you’re saying for any woman to be a warrior, she must take horse tranquilizers and sniff airplane glue? Far out. But to answer your question, that depends entirely upon your definition of “party.” I had a squad leader once who liked to shove privates into wall lockers and knock them down the stairs. He thought it was the best possible way to spend a Saturday night. I could see Amy Winehouse pulling that off.

“One of the things everyone is going to be talking about is the “standards” issue. “Will they lower the standards,” or “will women get different standards than men,” or “will I have to start wearing a bra so they feel more comfortable…” How do you think that will affect things? Oh, and yes, the Force will be majorly disturbed. Something about chromosomes and midi-chlorians…it’s high tech stuff.”

Jack: “You got hazed/trained, too?! My first NCO liked beating the back of my legs with PVC pipes. I wonder if they have ‘Battered FNG Shelters’ for people like us?

“Wait… where were we?… Oh yeah.

“I believe it’s too early to tell how standards will be affected. I certainly assume that the male partygoers will expect the females to hang in there. We can’t have these chicks passing out early on us. There has undoubtedly been enough women in the past who have proven themselves worthy and, in some instances, outdone the boys–like that chick who almost beat Andy Kaufman in the Inter-Gender Wrestling Championship.”

Mr. Twisted: “I had this soldier once who was actually built like a girl. He had really wide hips and man-boobs. He was terribly out of shape, but he got promoted pretty quickly because he filled out paper work really fast. I’m not really sure how that relates, but I wanted to get a jab in at him and thought it worked here.

“Andy Kaufman ass-kickers aside, what happens when a woman ends up in a rifle platoon and a couple of the dudes want to, you know, do that…thing…with her…?”

Jack: “Oh, that ‘thing.’ Well, that’s a whole other issue.

“Here’s my take. Men and women are both genetically wired to do that thing with each other–and sometime with the same gender. (It’s science. You can’t argue with science–unless you’re from a Kansas-based fundamentalist church that has an enthusiastic hatred for that kind of thing.) Putting them together in an environment where they have constant contact with each other in extreme situations will surely trigger certain sexual emotions. This seems to be one of the major issues facing a gender-integrated rifle platoon. We have to ask ourselves certain questions.

1) Will a sexual relationship between two platoon-mates cause tensions or hamper unit cohesion?

2) Can men and women work in this atmosphere without doing that ‘thing,’ and will there be certain policies set up to prohibit it?

3) If a male Soldier or Marine does enter into a consensual relationship with a female platoon member, will he have to constantly endure questions like ‘do these cammies make my ass look big’ and ‘I saw you smile at PFC Smuckatelli, do you think she’s cuter than me?’ … I can’t stand that shit, bro.

4) And lastly, how big were the man-boobs on this guy? Are we talkin’ A, B, or C cup? D cup?”

Mr. Twisted: I’ll try to address them in order, but I went mostly to public school, so all bets are off.

1) Yes. Someone will want to do someone else, and then a third party will either A) be jealous, or B) also do that someone else and cause even more problems. I saw every episode of Seinfeld, so I know how this turns out.

2) All I know is that, if they are allowed to do it, they damn well better be wearing a reflective belt during the act!!!

3) I foresee a “relationship counselor” MOS within the rifle platoon.

4) Probably an A cup, but his hips were like Beyonce. It was weird. We even asked a guy who had a PhD in biochemistry to explain it. He couldn’t.

I honestly have mixed feelings. Though I think there is a case to be made for women in combat, I think it would only work well if they kept the standards the same across the board and minimized the amount of drama within a platoon, we all know that A) the standards thing won’t happen, and B) the drama thing will probably never go away as long as we have a culture that continues to uphold people like Oprah and Dr. Phil as people worthy of taking advice from.

Jack: Alright, you sold me on the standards not being upheld. As far as the drama thing not going away goes, let me add on. When you serve in a tight-knit military unit like an infantry platoon, folks are going to lash out every once in a while. You can’t avoid it. All that testosterone crammed into an inescapable situation can cause the closest of friends to get at each other’s throats–sometimes verbally and sometimes physically. It’s just the nature of the beast, always has been. What happens when a male and female butt heads? I’ve witnessed guys get into all-out fist fights with each other and then the two bastards are drinking beers a few hours later and laughing it off. I don’t think that scenario would play out with a male vs. female confrontation.

“So what would be the solution if, hypothetically, this happened? How does the ‘relationship counselor’ approach a complicated issue like this if we as a society are still harboring the mentality that men and women are to be held to different standards regarding how they treat each other?

“Also, will the relationship counselor be expected to carry a rifle like the rest of the platoon or is he more similar to a clergy member? Maybe we could have Soldiers and Marines keep their main MOSs as infantrymen and just designate and train one member of the platoon to hold a secondary billet. Is anyone even listening to me?

“Now, back to an equally important subject… did the Beyonce hips guy meet the physical requirements or was he just an overall blob? Speaking of overall blobs, I agree, Dr. Phil is a stain on society.”

Twisted: “Imagine Dr. Phil but shaped like Beyonce but…not hot. And the term “barely” would be paying him a compliment in terms of physical standards being met.

“I think we have four solid take-aways from this discussion: One, Amy Winehouse would have made a fine soldier. 2) Intra-Platoon sex will probably cause a lot of problems. 3) Relationship counselors as combatants will probably get in the way of, well, everything and make everyone madder than they were before. And finally, 4) Tim Kennedy was a hotter version of Katy Perry than Katy Perry was.

“Because our boss, the Chief Boot-Knocka of the Rhino Den, RU Rob, has put a word limit on these posts (which we totally disregarded), please leave something in the comment section indicating whether or not you would like to see a part two of this, because believe me, we’re just scratching the surface on this beast.”




  1. SSgt Abrassive

    January 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    This reminds me of email strings with my friends. Post part II, its funny sh*t.

    • Chylene Ramsey

      February 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      I was in the service; it was a while ago, but guys never change. I mean, never. They change their sippy cups for aluminum cans, but they may as well still be in spider man training pants. Guys, women don’t HAVE testesterone issues. I mean, you guys make jokes about US? Being around enlisted men was like running across the psycho bitch from hell on PMS 31 days a month! Point: We got a new company commander who got all gung-ho on PT. He decided EVERY swingin’ dick (and dickess) was going to “Get in shape.” 20-mile road marches, once a month. Lovely.

      The first one, myself and my lone fellow service woman got subjected to some good-natured ribbing from the guys. “Hey, pussies! Wanna piggy-back ride??” They sneered. “Gonna carry you cunts like sad-sacks ‘fore we’ve gone two miles!” “You’ll be on th’ lame ‘n lazy truck ‘fore we’re outta th’yard!” “oooo! I gotta bliiissstteerrrr!”
      My friend and I looked at each other grimly. “I don’t care if my feet fall off. I ain’t gettin’ on that damn truck.” I said. She nodded, a hard glint of detirmination in her eye.
      Before we’d gone 5 miles, all the guys who’d mocked us were in the truck. We loped along side, offering girlish sympathy. “Hey, asswipes! WHO’S the pussy??” “Oooo! I gotta Bliiisssteerr!”
      “Hey, Sarge! Wanna midol???” “Wanna piggy back ride, Rambo???”
      They sulked like three year olds.
      We made it all the way, even though I peeled most of the skin off my feet that night with my grungy green socks, and I could barely walk for three days.
      Got any more stupid ideas, go watch a bunch of women playing a no-rules game of battle-ball. It’d make a six-tour combat veteran’s blood run cold.

  2. 2xTap

    January 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Word count, schmord count. Bring it on! You guys rock!

    • Midway there

      January 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      Absomotherfuckinglutely need a part two!

  3. theycallmedunn

    January 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    MORE!!!! MORE!!!!!

  4. Tool175

    January 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    More please

  5. TCHall

    January 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    It’s a worthy subject… Back when I was in service, the USAF firefighters had one standard… the females in that field were rare, but in terrific condition.

  6. steelhorse6

    January 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    nothing good can come from this, funny as hell however, “hips like beyonce” bwhahaha

  7. Garrison

    January 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Part 2

  8. CR11c

    January 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Keep it rolling. Best article I’ve read all day

  9. LT J

    January 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    This announcement in so many ways utterly astounds me. Firstly, the call was made by a man who was never even been near a Combat Arms Unit, much less the Infantry, a man who spent his two (and I emphasize TWO) years in the military as a Military Intelligence Officer, and whose crowning career achievement within the Army was an ARCOM.

    It’s almost as though they specifically attempting to bleed Combat Arms leaders from the military. Where has the understanding been lost that the media termed “Front Line Combat Units” (read, Infantry) were created specifically for one mission, and one mission alone: to destroy the enemies of the United States both foreign and domestic. And I further raise that by stating that all other branches in the military were created with the purpose of supporting that mission. We are not, nor have ever been, a social experiment or a venue of social change. Just because we set aside some of the social bullshit prior to other people (such as racism and segregation), does not make us a lab for these things. It was a move that supported our mission, and that we made on our own.

    I fear for the future of the military in which I serve, not because of the funds which are being cut, nor because they want to reduce our force numbers, I believe we can adapt and overcome to such things. What concerns me is we are becoming an avenue for social experiments, forcing us to implement policies which are detrimental to unit cohesion. In my company alone 3 NCOs will be ETS’ing after they get off the trail, because of a combination of piss poor leadership they have encountered in their service, and this force feeding of political ideals to a military mission.

    Though I am not supposed to have a public opinion, I can hardly be silent about the reality I see in front of me. We are spoon fed these “wonderful progressive ideas” which many of my fellow officers accept hook line and sinker, cow-towing to political convenience rather than understanding reality, that people want in this world want to kill us, and we, the Infantry, are the sword and the shield that prevents this from occuring.

    The sword and the shield have only purpose. Why do they keep attempting to use us for something which we are not designed to do?

    • Charles

      February 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      LT J what troubles me is the depressing lack of leadership at the highest levels in our military. It seems all the GOs are nothing more than window dressing for these liberal politicians and tools to push thier agendas. Not a one has the moral courage to take a stand against this madness. As an old crusty NCO I would encourage you to be an instrument of change from within. I could go on and on about all the bizarre things I have seen in 25 years but I have to say it has gotten worse in the last couple years. Now when the true warriors left within the ranks speak up we are somehow viewed as troglodytes. I had a tool in my unit (a REMF) tell me I was closeminded because I did not accept the premise that women can or should serve in combat units.
      Hang in there – you are not alone.

      • Chev

        March 7, 2013 at 10:17 am

        LT J and Charles,

        I couldn’t agree more. I’m an E8…Field Artillery. My wife is an E7, Admin. SHE thinks this is the worst idea ever, and she is as hard as woodpecker lips(crossfit-she does a sub 4 minute Fran). I was shocked when this was announced to find she felt this way. She is tough and fit, and could hang with a lot of the guys I know, but thinks that this is bullshit. Standards lowered…it’s going to happen. Drama in the ranks and outrageous amounts of sexual harrassment complaints…check. Not to mention the amount of pregnancies that will occur in theatre. I love how the business of breaking things and killing people has become a social experiment.

  10. cochese3dACR

    January 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    SEND IT!!!

  11. cochese3dACR

    January 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    lets get the rest of the conversation

  12. Dan

    January 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    hell yes I wanna see part two! the first part was a great read, although Im not sure how Tim Kennedy came in to this, congrats to Tim by the way on his win and advancement to the UFC. One other question in this scenario would be ok to punch the a female in your squad if a disagreement broke out?

  13. Will Black

    January 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Since any comment on Facebook degrades quickly into “fucking Obama is trying to rule the world” it’s nice to see lighter take on the subject. Please, continue the discussion in as many more articles you can. I like being able to laugh rather than be hit with a wall of stupid when it comes up anywhere else.

  14. Amy Winehouse

    January 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Needs more of this article.

  15. Raul Felix

    January 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Keep this shit up.

  16. ansel chin

    January 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    If they can meet standards, fine. But as one salty staff sergeant told me, it has nothing to do with meeting standards, it’s about being able to do the job. “As long as it doesn’t affect unit effectiveness” was the lesson I’d been given.

    If a female can do all the same exercises the males do for the PFT, and do all the same jobs the rest of the guys do, that would be meeting the standard. However what if 2 guys decide they’ve just met the love of their life? What if the female decides to get pregnant in order to avoid deploying overseas? What if the female starts using sexual politics to get her way within the unit and damn the consequences?

    I realize there are a number of female soldiers and marines in the service serving honorably and with distinction. What I talked about with females was exactly what was going on – and that was in the 80’s.

    Easy enough for the SecDef to proclaim “so let it be written, so let it be done”, but the forces – especially the NCO’s – are stuck with making this train wreck work.

  17. ccurl

    January 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    1. nobody is hotter than Katy Perry.

    2. They seperate bootcamps…. why?
    why do they have girl bootcamps and guy bootcamps?????
    – fundamentally, it makes sense to maintain training productivity.

    then, they will combine them when the shit hits the fan?

    politics…is the only real reason.

  18. DJ

    January 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    ….Because we all know 120 female w/full combat load(makin shit up already !)can hump(oh shit, that’s trouble) 180# of bleeding out male, up a ridgeline to a medevac , just as fast as 180-200# man;RIGHT?…..

    ….And there’s NO WAY , anyone might slip through a perimeter, when Dick and Jane R’ slippinitin…..because they will, on both counts.

    …hey soldier wanna trade…..

    ….girls -you wanna be a target of opportunity,so the bad guys can drop the 10 lovestuck guys that will do absolutely dumb shit to save you while you bleed out…..

    Standards, they will not be the same…this ain’t your crossfit class…

    fuck that shit(ooops -probably have some of that too!)The first one is enough for me….

  19. Kristian375

    January 25, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    My second day in 3/75 involved being pushed down a flight of stairs while locked in a wall locker. I never considered that hazing though. Compared to the hazing, that was a lot of laughs.

  20. leftoftheboom

    January 26, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Where is Part II already?

  21. FatDave

    January 26, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Part two is a must.
    1) I need to know what happened to PVT Man-Boobs.
    2) More insight into the females in Combat Arms is always welcome.
    3) We need your unbiased decision in the “Is Ted Kennedy hotter than Katy Perry when he is pretending to be Katy Perry?”
    4) Lets be real and admit Ted Kennedy is so awesome he can be the worlds sexiest man and woman simultaneously.

  22. RED_33

    January 26, 2013 at 11:19 am

    From my time in the Marines and the Army, I’ve seen maybe 2-3 females who could legitimately meet infantry standards. These women were of course, athletic freaks. If they want to do it, I say let them do it. With one major caveat.

    Have them serve in all female platoons. Speaking strictly as a POG, I see no way to integrate women into combat line units without a serious degradation of combat effectiveness. You’re talking about putting women in contact with the meanest swinging dicks in the civilized world. It would be like asking grizzly bears to work with honey dipped salmon.

    • Shiftee

      February 4, 2013 at 4:17 am

      ha let’s discuss grooming standards in part II… I dunno about the rest of you guys but I think having to see a chick with a bush could be catastrophic to unit morale.

  23. Artemis

    January 26, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    DJ Clear is confused. The argument that male soldiers will freak out and derail missions upon seeing wounded or dead female soldiers is a myth. I was the only female in a 13 soldier squad that ran convoy security in Iraq. I have never seen a male member of the US military try to save a female from anything. They do not care. If u fall behind they will leave you behind. Female soldiers have to be strong and smart enough to rely on themselves If something bad happens, because no male is coming to help you.

    • Gunship Load

      January 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm


      Historically speaking, you are the one that is incorrect in this matter. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) tried to place women in the Infantry. The results were catastrophic.

      understand that you were running convoy security, not in the Infantry. It is unfortunate that feel that those you were with and your situation was what it was. My time in the Infantry was female free, thankfully.

      My personal opinion is that this is a political move only. It was not made with the thought of who actually has to do this, and who has to clean the mess that was made for them.

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