Is the infantry role out of reach for women?

US Marines Captain Katie Petronio provides some much-needed hard data about how tough combat is on a woman's body:

"By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change," she wrote. "My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability."
Note that this is not just some fainting flower - she's a Marine officer and a standout athlete. But her body just couldn't handle the prolonged physical stress of combat.

This is not to say that women don't have a place in combat. Leigh Ann Hester, Michelle Norris MC and Kate Nesbitt MC all prove that courage and good physical reactions under fire are not the exclusive preserve of men. Sgt. Hester in particular demonstrated an ability to fire, manoeuvre and bring the fight to the enemy with the best of them. However, Captain Petronio's point is a harder one. No matter what our fighting instinct and transient physical reactions show, it seems that even the toughest woman's body degrades over time faster than men in a comparable position.

Is this a good enough reason to keep women out of front-line infantry roles? Beats me. I certainly can't see it as a good argument for keeping women out of armoured fighting vehicles, for instance - but for any role involving extreme physical endurance, it seems that a woman's body can't tolerate prolonged abuse as much as a man's.

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