Women in combat
|Women in society|
Women in combat are female military personnel assigned to combat positions. The article covers the situation in major countries, provides a historical perspective, and reviews the main arguments made for and against women in combat.
- 1 History
- 2 Specific countries
- 3 Issues
- 4 See also
- 5 Further reading
- 6 References
- 7 External links
For most of human history, people serving in combat were overwhelming male. From time to time in world history individual women have served in combat roles disguised as men or in leadership roles as queens (such as Queen Boudica, who led the Britons against Rome; Joan of Arc is the famous example). In the First World War Russia used one all-female combat unit. In the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of British and German women served in combat roles in anti-aircraft units, where they shot down thousands of enemy fliers. They were widely accepted because they were not at risk of capture. In the Soviet Union, their large-scale use of women near the front as medical staff and political officers. The Soviets also set up all-female sniper units and combat fighter planes. A few women also played combat roles in resistance movements in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. After 1945 all these combat roles were ended in all armies, and the experiences were forgotten.
The Australian military plans to open up combat jobs to women in January 2016.
In 1989, a tribunal appointed under the Canadian Human Rights Act ordered full integration of women in the Canadian Armed Forces "with all due speed", at least within the next ten years. Submarines remained closed to women, until three years later.
The 2000 Equality amendment to the Military Service law states that "The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men." As of now,[when?] 88% to 92% of all roles in the IDF are open to female candidates, while women can be found in 69% of all positions.
New Zealand has no restrictions on roles for women in its defence force. They are able to serve in the Special Air Service, infantry, armour and artillery. This came into effect in 2001 by subordinate legislation. Though, no woman has ever made it into the Special Air Service.
Female personnel of all three services play an active part in ongoing operations. However, there are certain limitations in 'direct combat' duties such as special forces,pilot branch, naval fast attack squadrons.
Women can serve in all positions in the Swedish military since 1989. Currently, about 5.5% of all officers are women.
When Turkish history is examined, it is apparent that Turkish women have voluntarily taken tasks in the defence of their country, showing the same power and courage as men. Nene Hatun, whose monument has been erected in the city of Erzurum (Eastern Turkey) because of her gallant bravery during the Ottoman-Russian War, constitutes a very good example of this fact. Besides providing nursery services, women also took main roles in combat in WWI. Furthermore, the Independence War has taken its place in history with the unsurpassed heroism of Turkish women. Sabiha Gökçen was the first female combat pilot in the world, as well as the first Turkish female aviator. She was one of the eight adoptive children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, Gökçen flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8,000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions. She was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "20 Greatest Aviators in History" published by the United States Air Force in 1996.
Women personnel are being employed as officers in the Turkish Armed Forces today. The women officers serve together with the men under the same respective chains of command. The personnel policy regarding women in the Turkish Armed Forces is based on the principle of "needing qualified women officers in suitable branches and ranks" to keep pace with technological advancements in the 21st century. Women civilian personnel have been assigned to the headquarters staff, technical fields, and social services without sexual discrimination. Women officers serve in all branches except armor, infantry, and submarines. Assignments, promotions and training are considered on an equal basis with no gender bias.
As of the year 2005, the number of the female officers and NCOs in the Turkish Armed Forces is 1245.
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In WWI and WWII women served in numerous roles such as the Army Nurse Corps, and the Women's Army Corps (WAC). They carried out various roles such as clerical work, mechanical work, photo analysis, and sheet metal working; in some cases they were utilized as test pilots for fighter planes as WASPS. In 1979 enlistment qualifications became the same for men and women. While women were able to enlist, they were prohibited from direct combat roles or assignments. In 1994 the Department of Defense officially banned women from serving in combat, but, on January 24, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the military's ban on women serving in combat. Implementation of these rules is ongoing. There is some speculation that this could lead to women having to register with the Selective Service System.
The United States Marine Corps is still in its infancy stages of allowing women into combat positions. Army Ranger Battalions and Navy SEAL units plan to integrate women by 2015 and 2016, respectively. On November 21, 2013, the first three women to ever complete the United States Marine Corps’ combat training course graduated from the United States Marine Corps School of Infantry in Camp Geiger, North Carolina. However, these three female graduates will still not be allowed to serve in infantry units until further studies can demonstrate they are physically capable of doing so. On January 24, 2014, the US Army announced that 33,000 positions that were previously closed to women would integrate in the upcoming month of April, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join the US Army's Special Operations community.
The following is a list of issues at the center of the debate whether or not gender integration lends to combat effectiveness. The debate centers more on the physical characteristics of individual women rather than the question of their overall contributions to teams and units. A detailed study was also done by Global Policy on the ongoing debate, which categorizes the following criticisms.
In civil employment, the average female physical performance is limited to two thirds of the physical performance of men by regulations. The different physical gender-performance is standardized in ISO 11228 (Ergonomics - Manual handling) and EN 1005 (Safety of machinery - Human physical performance).
The Center for Military Readiness, an organization that seeks to limit women's participation in the military, stated that “Female soldiers [are], on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance”.
The female skeletal system is less dense, and more prone to breakages. There is also a concern that, in aviation, the female body is not as adept at handling the increased g-forces experienced by combat pilots. However, there is evidence that the male body is less able to handle the g-forces than the female body with regard to black outs: women are less likely to black out due to shorter blood vessel routes in the neck. Furthermore, health issues regarding women are argued as the reason that some submarine services avoid accepting women, although mixed-gender accommodations in a small space is also an issue, as is explained in more depth below.
The Austrian Armed Forces, significantly lower physical performance requirements for entrance test and subsequent tests apply to female soldiers fitness for service. The Swiss Armed Forces abolished this advantage for female soldiers in 2007.
The United States Marine Corps is implenting the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) to test the physical abilities of their female officer candidates for those who apply for the combat positions.
There is a secondary concern that romantic relationships between men and women on the front lines could disrupt a unit's fighting capability and a fear that a high number of women would deliberately become pregnant in order to escape combat duties.
In the British Army, which continues to bar women from serving in infantry-roled units, all recruits joining to fill infantry vacancies partake in a separate training program called the Combat Infantryman's Course.
In the American armed forces, the 1994 rules forbidding female involvement in combat units of brigade size or smaller are being bent. Colonel Cheri Provancha, stationed in Iraq, argues that: "This war has proven that we need to revisit the policy, because they are out there doing it."
A third argument against the inclusion of women in combat units is that placing women in combat where they are at risk of being captured and tortured and possibly sexually assaulted is unacceptable. Rhonda Cornum, then a major and flight surgeon, and now a Brigadier General and Command Surgeon for United States Army Forces Command, was an Iraqi POW in 1991. At the time, she was asked not to mention that she had been molested while in captivity. Cornum subsequently disclosed the attack, but said "A lot of people make a big deal about getting molested," she noted later, adding: "But in the hierarchy of things that were going wrong, that was pretty low on my list".
Finally, there is the argument that by not incorporating women into combat, the American government is failing to tap into another source of soldiers for military combat operations. This argument claims that the government is creating a military that treats women as second-class citizens and not equals of men. Other observers state that without women, the military would have numerous manpower shortfalls they would not be able to fill.
In On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman briefly mentions that female soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces have been officially prohibited from serving in close combat military operations since 1948. The reason for removing female soldiers from the front lines was due less to the performance of female soldiers, and more due to the behavior of the male infantrymen after witnessing a woman wounded. The IDF saw a complete loss of control over soldiers who apparently experienced an uncontrollable, protective, instinctual aggression, severely degrading the unit's combat effectiveness.
However, in 2001, subsequent to the publication of Grossman's book, women did begin serving in IDF combat units on an experimental basis. There is now a male-female infantry battalion, the Caracal Battalion.
Grossman also notes that Islamic militants rarely, if ever, surrender to female soldiers. In modern warfare where intelligence is perhaps more important than enemy casualties, every factor reducing combatants' willingness to fight is considered. Similarly, Iraqi and Afghan civilians are often not intimidated by female soldiers. However, in such environments, having female soldiers serving alongside a combat unit may have some advantages.
A notable example of this are female US military personnel attached to combat units specifically for the purpose of performing culturally sensitive searches. One example of this type of unit is the USMC Lioness program, which used female Marines to search females  at checkpoints both on the Iraq-Syrian border  and inside urban areas. Another example is the US Army Cultural Support Teams (CSTs). These units, designed to accompany special operations teams and work alongside them in deployed environments, are intended to provide access to the information and needs of local community women in communities where contact between male soldiers and civilian women is culturally fraught.
There is also evidence showing women in both Iraq and Afghanistan have considerable success in acquiring intelligences from children and women. In these cases the US military adheres to local customs for the purposes of counterinsurgency, whereby males are not permitted to talk to women who are not in their family or are not married to them. However, in all these cases, it should be noted that they are attached—not assigned—to combat units, and their primary purpose is not to "close with and kill the enemy." Generally speaking, if their unit comes under attack they may attempt to break contact, similar to what a Platoon Leader or Company Commander might do, staying close to the action but sitting back slightly and behind cover, leaving trained combat soldiers to do the fighting. Only in cases where they come under direct attack, or where their unit is caught in the fog of war will they, or have they traditionally been permitted to, take the fight to the enemy.
Besides the issue of women in combat, women have been a strategic advantage in training other women in police forces. This empowers women to have more of position in their community outside of their homes.
Melody Kemp mentions that the Australian soldiers have voiced similar concern saying these soldiers "are reluctant to take women on reconnaissance or special operations, as they fear that in the case of combat or discovery, their priority will be to save the women and not to complete the mission. Thus while men might be able to be programmed to kill, it is not as easy to program men to neglect women."
- Combat Exclusion Policy, in USA
- Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces
- Women in the military in the Americas
- Women in the military in Europe
- Women in the military by country
- Women in the Australian military
- Women in the Philippine military
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