Women in combat

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Women in combat are female military personnel assigned to combat positions. This article covers the situation in major countries, provides a historical perspective, and reviews the main arguments made for and against women in combat.

History[edit]

Main article: Women in the military

For most of human history, people serving in combat were overwhelmingly male. In a few cases however, individual women have been recorded as serving 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).[1] In the First World War Russia after February Revolution 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 aircraft. They were widely accepted because they were not at risk of capture.[2] In the Soviet Union, there was 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.[3][4] A few women also played combat roles in resistance movements in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.[5]

Specific countries[edit]

Germany[edit]

In 2001, Germany opened all combat units to women. This greatly increased recruitment for female soldiers. Since 2001, the number of German Armed Forces has tripled. By 2009, 800 female soldiers were serving in combat units.[6]

Australia[edit]

The Australian military began a five-year plan to open combat roles to women in 2011. Front line combat roles opened in January 2013.[7] The positions women will now be able to fill are: Navy Ordnance disposal divers, airfield and ground defense guards, infantry, artillery and armored units.[8]

Canada[edit]

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 2000.[9]

India[edit]

India began recruiting women to non-medical positions in the armed forces in 1992,[10] and in 2016 announced a decision to allow women to take up combat roles in all sections of its army, navy and air force.[11]

In 2014, India's army had 3 per cent women, the Navy 2.8 per cent and the Air Force performed best with 8.5 per cent women.[12]

In 2015 India opened new combat air force roles for women as fighter pilots, adding to their role as helicopter pilots in the Indian Air Force.[13]

Denmark[edit]

In 1988, Denmark created a policy of "total inclusion". They proposed "combat trials" which they explored how women fight on the front lines. A 2010 British Ministry of Defense study concluded that women performed the same as men. All positions in military are open to women - excluding Special Operations Forces because of physical requirements.[14]

Finland[edit]

Men are required to enlist whereas for women it is voluntary. If women do choose to enlist they are allowed to train for combat roles.[15]

France[edit]

One-fifth of women make up the military in France. Women can serve in most areas of the military except submarines and riot control. Women are allowed to serve in combat infantry but many women choose not to. Only 1.7 percent of women serve in combat infantry.[14]

Israel[edit]

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."[16] As of 2011, 88% to 92% of all roles in the IDF are open to female candidates, while women can be found in 69% of all positions.[17][18]

In 2014, the IDF said that fewer than 4 percent of women are in combat positions such as infantry, tank crews, artillery guns service, fighter pilots, etc. Rather, they are concentrated in "combat-support".[19]

New Zealand[edit]

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.

Norway[edit]

In 1985, Norway became the first country to allow women to serve on its submarines. The first female commander of a Norwegian submarine was Solveig Krey in 1995.[20][21] Norway was, along with Israel, first to allow women to serve in all combat roles in the military in 1988.[22] In 2015, Norway made women eligible for compulsory military service.

Sri Lanka[edit]

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.

Sweden[edit]

Women have been able to serve in all positions in the Swedish military since 1989. Currently, about 5.5% of all officers are women.[23]

Turkey[edit]

Turkish women have voluntarily taken tasks in the defence of their country. Nene Hatun, whose monument has been erected in Erzurum, fought during the Ottoman-Russian War. Turkish women also took main roles in combat in WWI[24] and the Independence War.[25] Sabiha Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot,[26][27] having flown 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8,000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions.[28]

Women personnel are being employed as officers in the Turkish Armed Forces today. As of 2005, there are 1245 female officers and NCOs in the Turkish Armed Forces.[29] 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.[25]

United States[edit]

As far back as the Revolutionary War, when Molly Pitcher took over a cannon after her husband fell in the field, where she was delivering water (in pitchers), women have at times been forced into combat, though until recently they have been formally banned from choosing to do so intentionally.

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. The United States has more women in its military than any other nation.[30]

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was a pivotal point for women in the Military. As the Army's mission changed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the roles of women also changed in the ranks. In 2016, women had the equal right to choose any military occupational specialty such as ground units that were not authorized before.[31]

On January 24, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the military's ban on women serving in combat.[32] Implementation of these rules is ongoing. There is some speculation that this could lead to women having to register with the Selective Service System.[33]

On November 21, 2013, the first three women to ever complete the United States Marine Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion course graduated from the United States Marine Corps School of Infantry in Camp Geiger, North Carolina.[34][35] 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.[35]

In April 2015, a two-and-a-half year period in which the tough Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course became gender-integrated for research ended without a single female graduate.[36] The final two participants in the Marines' experiment with training women for ground combat started and failed the IOC on April 2. Both were dropped that same day during the grueling initial Combat Endurance Test.[37]

Army Ranger Battalions and Navy SEAL units plan to open positions to women by 2015 and 2016, respectively. In August 2015, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first two women to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School, despite failing the portion of the tests required to enlist in the 75th Ranger Regiment.[38] In 2016, Griest became the first female infantry officer in the US Army when the Army approved her request to transfer there from a military police unit.[39]

In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women.[40] The decision was not supported by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford of the Marine Corps, who wanted to keep certain direct combat positions such as infantry and machine gunner closed to women.[41][42]

In March 2016, Ash Carter approved final plans from military service branches and the U.S. Special Operations Command to open all combat jobs to women, and authorized the military to begin integrating female combat soldiers "right away."[43] On October 26, 2016, ten women became the first female graduates from the United States Army's Infantry Basic Officer Leader's Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.[44]

United Kingdom[edit]

In July 2016 all exclusions on women serving in Ground Close Combat (GCC) roles were lifted.[45]

All roles in the The King's Royal Hussars, The Royal Tank Regiment, and all Army Reserve Royal Armoured Corps units have been opened to women, and women will be permitted to join the rest of the previously closed GCC roles in the Royal Armoured Corps, British Army Infantry, Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment by the end of 2018.[46]

It's important to note, however, that even though GCC roles were closed to women until 2016, women have been previously on the "front line" and exposed to combat in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through other roles, such as all roles in the Royal Artillery, which despite being one of the combat arms is not classed as a GCC role. Women were permitted to serve in Fire Support Teams and on 105mm L118 Light Gun crews. Women were also permitted to apply to join the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, which is one of the major components of the UK Special Forces alongside the Special Air Service, Special Boat Service and Special Forces Support Group. Women also served as combat medics attached to Army Infantry, Royal Marines and other GCC units. Some were awarded the prestigious Military Cross for bravery under fire.[47][48][49]

Six British women in the Iraq War, and three in the Afghanistan War were killed in action.[50][51]

Issues[edit]

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.[52]

Physical concerns[edit]

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”.[53]

Motherhood accounts for 58% of hospitalizations among active-duty female troops. One significant female contribution was recognized on June 16, 2005, when Sgt. Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star for her actions during a firefight that took place outside Baghdad. This was the first Silver Star in U.S. military history awarded to a woman soldier.[54]

A 2014-2015 experiment by the Marine Corps with a gender-integrated combat unit found that women were twice as likely to suffer injuries significant enough to remove them from duty, and that women's shooting accuracy was much less than that of men in simulated combat situations. Female soldiers were also found to have lower performance in the basic combat tasks like negotiating obstacles and removing wounded troops from the battlefield.[55][56]

The female skeletal system is less dense, and more prone to breakages.[57][58] 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.[verification needed] 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.[53]

In the Austrian Armed Forces and almost all NATO countries, significantly lower physical performance requirements for entrance and subsequent tests apply to female soldiers in determining fitness for service.[59][60] The Swiss Armed Forces abolished this advantage for female soldiers in 2007.[61]

Social concerns[edit]

The purported disruption of a combat unit's morale is cited as another reason for women to be banned from front-line combat situations.[62][63][64]

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.[65][66]

In the British Army, which continues to ban 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."[67]

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.[66] 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.[68] 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.[69] Other observers state that without women, the military would have numerous personnel shortfalls they would not be able to fill.[70]

Tactical concerns[edit]

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's book On Killing 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 instinctual protective aggression that was uncontrollable, 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.

In a similar vein, Melody Kemp mentions that the Australian military has also voiced similar concerns saying their 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."[71]

Recent studies from Harvard Business School and MIT have shown that group intelligence of an organization rises when women are on teams. Women tend to bring a level of sensitivity and the ability to read emotions of other people. In today's battlefield experiences, social sensitivity is a very much needed skill for military professionals. Having women in the military would dramatically increase the ability to extract critical intelligence. This could possibly be the difference between a mission’s success or failure.[72]

Grossman also notes that Islamic militants rarely, if ever, surrender to female soldiers. Similarly, Iraqi and Afghan civilians are often not intimidated by female soldiers.

Combat support[edit]

In modern warfare, however, where "winning minds" and gaining intelligence can prove more important at times than enemy casualties, having female soldiers serving alongside a combat unit may have some advantages. For example, the use of female US military personnel attached to combat units specifically for the purpose of performing culturally sensitive searches such as in the USMC Lioness program which used female Marines to search females [73] at checkpoints both on the Iraq-Syrian border [74] and inside urban areas.[75] Another example is the US Army Cultural Support Teams (CSTs). that accompany special operations teams and work alongside them providing access to the needs of and information and from local community women in communities where contact between male soldiers and civilian women is culturally fraught.[76]

Women made a huge impact in 2010 when the Army began utilizing Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan. The main purpose for these teams was to engage more female populations where such combat was not possible by male service members. These teams perform a number of duties, including intelligence gathering, relationship building, and humanitarian efforts.[31]

And indeed there is evidence showing women in both Iraq and Afghanistan have had considerable success in acquiring intelligence 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.[77] 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.

Other considerations[edit]

Where the presence of women may be a factor in reducing combatants' willingness to fight, this consideration may override others and thus should be carefully assessed.

Finally, besides the issue of women in combat, women have presented a strategic advantage in training other women in police forces. Their presence has modeled and created opportunities for women to have positions in their community outside of their homes.[78]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

History[edit]

  • Cook, Bernard. Women and War: Historical Encyclopedia from Antiquity to the Present (2006)
  • Campbell, D'Ann. "Women in Combat: The World War Two Experience in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Soviet Union", Journal of Military History 57 (April 1993), 301-323 online and in JSTOR 2944060
  • Cottam, K. Jean. "Soviet Women in Combat in World War II: The Ground Forces and the Navy," International Journal of Women's Studies (1980) 3#4 pp 345–357
  • Cottam, K. Jean. "Soviet Women in Combat in World War II: The Rear Services, Resistance behind Enemy Lines and Military Political Workers," International Journal of Women's Studies' (1982) 5#4 pp 363–378
  • Hacker, Barton C. and Margaret Vining, eds. A Companion to Women's Military History (2012) 625pp; articles by scholars covering a very wide range of topics
  • Hagemann, Karen, "Mobilizing Women for War: The History, Historiography, and Memory of German Women’s War Service in the Two World Wars," Journal of Military History 75:3 (2011): 1055-1093
  • Krylova, Anna. Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front (2010)

Recent[edit]

  • Goldman, Nancy Loring, ed. Female Soldiers--Combatants or Noncombatants? Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (1982).
  • Symons, Ellen. "Under Fire: Canadian Women in Combat," Canadian journal of women and the law (1990) 4:477-511
  • Maitra, Sumantra. "Women and War: Women in combat and the internal debate in the field of gender studies".,[79] Apr 2013[80]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Anna Krylova, Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front (2010)
  4. ^ K. Jean Cottam, "Soviet Women in Combat in World War II: The Ground Forces and the Navy," International Journal of Women's Studies (1980) 3#4 pp 345-357
  5. ^ K. Jean Cottam, "Soviet Women in Combat in World War II: The Rear Services, Resistance behind Enemy Lines and Military Political Workers," International Journal of Women's Studies (1982) 5#4 pp 363-378
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[1]

External links[edit]

[1]

  1. ^ a b Herford, James Scott, "Narrative Framing of U.S. Military Females in Combat: Inclusion Versus Resistance" (2013). Theses and Dissertations. Paper 746