A Feb. 2 proposal by two top U.S. generals that women be required to register for future military drafts represents what a former Army chief of chaplains called the unfortunate end result of the Obama administration’s decision to abolish all gender-based restrictions for military jobs.
“The sad fact is,” said former Army chief of chaplains Douglas Carver, “that our national leaders have championed gender equality in the Armed Services, specifically in the Special Operations and combat duty positions, without fully considering its impact on combat readiness, teambuilding, military recruiting for an all-volunteer force and the stability of military families.”
Carver’s comments, which parallel a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention resolution opposing “the training and assigning of females to military combat service” on theological and strategic grounds, came in response to a query from Baptist Press a day after Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. Robert Neller, Marine Corps commandant, both told the Senate Armed Services Committee they favor a change in America’s Selective Service System requiring young women to register for the draft along with their male counterparts.
Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy J. Fowler Photo from archive.defense.gov
In December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced women would be permitted as of Jan. 2 to enter elite combat forces “as long as they qualify and meet the standards,” according to a Washington Post report at the time. Milley and Neller’s appearance before the Armed Services Committee was occasioned by a hearing on implementation of that decision.
Neller told The Post following his Senate testimony, “Now that the restrictions that exempted women from [combat jobs] don’t exist … [it] doesn’t mean you’re going to serve, but you go register.”
In Carver’s opinion, “Congress now has no legal option to prevent the conscription of women since the Commander in Chief has directed that the Armed Services become a level playing field for all military duty positions.”
Carver, a retired major general and the North American Mission Board’s executive director of chaplaincy, said he “fully expect[s]” Congress to follow the generals’ recommendation and amend the Military Selective Service Act to require virtually all females between ages 18 and 25 to register for the draft.
Carver added in written comments, “I can only imagine the chaos to military communities should our nation reinstate the draft due to a threat to our national security. In the words of an old World War I song, who will ‘keep the home fires burning’ when both moms and dads are required by law to go to war?”
Mark Coppenger, a retired Army infantry officer and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, raised a question about the deeper motives of Milley and Neller. He argued they may have made their statements to highlight the absurdity of opening all combat roles to women.
“I have no idea what those service chiefs were thinking when, yesterday, they urged that women be required to register for the draft,” Coppenger said in written comments. “But I have a flicker of hope that they were trying to embarrass the social engineers who’ve foisted female ‘grunts’ upon us (a term of endearment for the infantry).”
The generals, Coppenger said, may have been stating implicitly, “You want equality/identity. Okay, you’ve got it. How does that feel?”
“Of course, social madness has proceeded apace since the 1970s,” Coppenger added, “and we have more people willing to embrace absurdities and abominations for the ‘great’ ideological causes of the day, but maybe this latest move will help stir the voting populace to sanity.”
Last year, then-Marine Corps commandant Joseph Dunford, who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended women continue to be excluded from some frontline combat jobs. When Neller took over as commandant, he vowed to implement the Obama administration’s decision.
Coppenger recalled his final year of college when a draft for the Vietnam War was instituted and American views on women in combat were much different.
“I may have missed it, but I don’t remember a man … arguing that it just wasn’t fair that all those able-bodied women went scot-free,” Coppenger said. Consensus existed “that it would be absurd, even despicable, to force our nation’s mothers, daughters and sisters suit up for ‘Nam.”
The SBC’s resolution “on women in combat” argued females should not be assigned to combat units because doing so:
“Rejects gender-based distinctions established by God in the order of creation”;
“Undermines male headship in the family by failing to recognize the unique gender-based responsibility of men to protect women and children”; and
“Subordinates the combat readiness of American troops, and the national security of the United States, to the unbiblical social agenda of feminism.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is department head of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)