Ex-SEAL Zinke: 'Nearly Certain' Women in Combat Will Cost Lives
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 07:19 PM
By: David A. Patten
Former Navy SEAL commander and Montana State Sen. Ryan Zinke reacted sharply Wednesday to news the Obama administration will drop the prohibition against women serving in military combat roles, warning it is “nearly certain” to cost lives.
A Republican who served in the elite SEAL Team Six, Zinke cautioned that introducing male-female dynamics on the front lines “has the potential to degrade our combat readiness.”
“I know there are some women who can do the physical training,” Zinke told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “When I was a SEAL instructor, the Olympic training center is in San Diego, and I watched some Olympic-caliber women athletes run through the obstacle course better than certainly many of the SEAL candidates could do.
“These were quality athletes. So physically, I think there are some women who can do it. But the issue is what are the unintended consequences? This is not a Demi Moore movie.
“In my opinion we’re not ready,” he said. “This is not a Hollywood movie. This has real consequences that are going to affect our sons and daughters whose lives are on the line. I think you need to go very, very carefully when it comes to the defense of our country.”
Sources say outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will announce his decision Thursday to allow female soldiers to participate in combat roles beginning later this year. Special units such as the SEALS, and the Army’s Delta Force, will have until 2016 to demonstrate why they should qualify for an exemption.
Zinke, who served in the SEALS from 1985 to 2008, said the administration’s order should be carefully reviewed.
During his time in the military, he said, he encountered “women operatives that were very, very good.”
The problem comes with unilaterally lifting the combat restriction across the board, he said.
“I think it’s going to have women wanting to be the first SEAL for the purpose of being the first SEAL,” he said. “The evolution of man, I think, is slower than the cultural evolution. And I think there will be unintentional consequences when it’s lifted across the board.”
Zinke also suggested that the decision does not appear to reflect a real-world understanding of combat.
“The hard truth of combat oftentimes is brutal,” he said. “It involves face-to-face, hand-to-hand, close-quarter battle. And I think we forget that. We’ve become so sensitized that warfare is wrapped up in a two-hour movie featuring stars who always live. And that’s not how it really is.”
The former Navy SEAL launched the Special Operations for America PAC during the height of last year’s presidential campaign. He said the decision to open up combat roles for women should have followed “a longer national discussion than a simple executive order.”
“I’m disappointed that it was taken lightly, and obviously it was,” he said.
Zinke also addressed concerns that mixing men and women on the front lines could impair unit morale and effectiveness.
“Let’s face it, it’s physically demanding, and distractions result in death,” he told Newsmax. “We’re not talking about mature men such as Panetta. We’re talking about 20-year-olds away from their families, close-quarters, out in the field. Relationships are going to happen, as they happen today on our naval vessels.”
His conclusion: “I think it is hasty and will result in unintended consequences that will lead unfortunately to a loss of life.”
Zinke added: “I believe that is nearly certain.”