Psychological Standards for Combat Arms Gender Integration

  • Lieutenant Colonel Thomas P. Mitalski

U.S. national values and societal norms continue to evolve concerning gender equality and equal opportunity. After the revocation of the combat exclusion rule, General Dempsey directed the validation of both physical and mental occupational performance standards in those military occupational specialties that had been closed to women. To date, the services have focused only on validating physical standards and have largely ignored mental and psychological standards. Regardless of gender and similar to physical standards, not all service members are psychologically suited for the combat arms. Through a review of life and death stress responses, psychological attributes critical in combat and psychological injuries linked to combat, this paper suggests that a psychological screening process be developed and implemented for the combat arms. Through use of psychological screening and in conjunction with physical and cognitive screening criteria, the services can optimize selection for the combat arms across the full spectrum of operations regardless of gender.