Opinion: Transgender military ban promotes combat readiness

Jerry Patterson

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision continuing the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service will no doubt generate an outcry from those self-anointed “social justice warriors” who view this as another great injustice to yet another aggrieved class of Americans. 

As a retired Marine Vietnam veteran, and the father of a Marine who represents our family’s fifth generation of overseas wartime service, I think I’m qualified to offer an opinion and I certainly have some skin in the game.

Why shouldn’t transgender people serve?

The Supreme Court in Washington.

A 2015 survey by the National Coalition of Transgender Equality found that “…40 percent of trans identified respondents had attempted suicide during their lifetime — nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population.”

So we should sign them up and give them a gun?

How can anyone legitimately believe that enlisting into the Armed Forces those who attempt suicide at a rate nine times that of the general population and giving them an M-16, a tank, a fighter aircraft or access to a WMD is a good idea? Is not suicide already an issue among active-duty personnel and veterans?

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are not intended to be instruments of social change or social justice. They are intended to have the capability of killing, or training to kill, as many of the enemy in the most expeditious manner possible. 

The premise that “individual rights” or “equal opportunity” matter in this debate is bogus.

No one has a right to serve in the military.

When serving, individual constitutional rights take a back seat to military readiness. There is only one consideration when deciding this issue. All that matters is: “Does this policy enhance or degrade military readiness?” I maintain it degrades it.

Some will argue that if you can qualify and meet the standards you should be allowed to serve. In a perfect world maybe so, but military service and combat are not a perfect world. They are a world in which small aberrations or mistakes caused by the lack of unit cohesiveness or low morale cost lives. 

One could argue that a 60-year-old triathlete should be allowed to enlist in the Army. The military doesn’t accept 60-year-olds because, except for a few outliers, the vast majority of 60-year-olds can’t make the grade to serve.

Keeping two million people under arms is a numbers game. To be burdened with special screening, qualifying, training and monitoring of the “outliers” — be they transgender individuals or 60 — is a burden the Armed Forces doesn’t need and a policy that will cost lives in combat.

This is not a decision that should be based on politics. It is not a decision that should be based on fairness, and it is not a decision that should be based on the opinions of professors. It should be based solely on what option actually enhances, not degrades, combat readiness.

Jerry Patterson is a former Texas land commissioner, state senator and retired Marine Vietnam veteran.