Female Marine rendered infertile by front-line experience

Earlier today, I saw Owen Strachan reference this article from a female Marine who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She was healthy, energetic, athletic, and ready to be deployed at the beginning of her career. After her tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, she has a different view of women serving in combat areas. The toll that it took on her body was devastating. Her name is Capt Katie Petronio, and she writes,

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. My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability. It was evident that stress and muscular deterioration was affecting everyone regardless of gender; however, the rate of my deterioration was noticeably faster than that of male Marines and further compounded by gender-specific medical conditions. At the end of the 7-month deployment, and the construction of 18 PBs later, I had lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (which personally resulted in infertility, but is not a genetic trend in my family), which was brought on by the chemical and physical changes endured during deployment. Regardless of my deteriorating physical stature, I was extremely successful during both of my combat tours, serving beside my infantry brethren and gaining the respect of every unit I supported. Regardless, I can say with 100 percent assurance that despite my accomplishments, there is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside as their combat load and constant deployment cycle would leave me facing medical separation long before the option of retirement. I understand that everyone is affected differently; however, I am confident that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.

You can read the rest here.


  • jake

    I commented earlier but this is very true. tons of infantrymen phase out after sustaining longterm injuries not sustained in battle but just the everyday stress on the body.

  • Akash Charles

    I am pretty sure the standards and conditions of hoe women are going to work will be lowered-I think this would be better cause might as well have good conditions for women and allow the existence of a slightly weaker army

  • Bob Wheeler

    I’m a 19 year Navy Corpsman who has served the majority of my time with the Marine Corps. My last combat deployment was in 2009 and our unit was put under some pretty stressful conditions, not just from physical exertion, but from environmental issues, as well. Her story is sad, but it’s also one of thousands of stories about people who return from war less of who they were before they deployed. Telling people that war sucks is not news. It may be occasionally needed or justified, but it’s never good…..for men or for women. I think it’s disengenious to use a single story to argue against this policy, unless you also want to point to the broken men as well and advocate not sending them either.

    Bob Wheeler

  • Jim Ottaway

    Bob —

    Thank you for your service. (In a different century, I benefited from corpsmen’s expertise several times.)
    I agree with you that this story does not prove a side of the issue. It does, however, bring to light a critical question: If a woman who is in good athletic shape cannot keep pace with the male Marines, to what extent should the same result be expected across a battalion or regiment, or the military in general? Also, it is interesting that she seems to be writing as a “convert”. That is, it sounds as if she took a good pride in her work, and I imagine that she would have much preferred a different result.
    And surely it is a sign of our fallenness that we must send anyone to fight in war. But if we must, then let us spare the daughters and mothers.

  • Amy Wagner

    Women in bootcamp have 10 times the stress fractures than men, and many that (jump out of planes, not sure of the term for it) have incontinence due to jumping and carrying heavy packs. These are serious issues that need to be addressed.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.