Women in combat
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.
Some nations allow female soldiers to serve in certain combat arms positions. Others exclude them for various reasons including physical demands and privacy policies.
The United States military has most of their positions open to women. There are some restrictions because of physical demands that women cannot meet such as Special Forces positions.
Women have been involved in the U.S. military since 1775, but more in the civilian fields of nursing, laundering, mending clothing and cooking. Several hundred women enlisted and fought in the US Civil War, nearly all of them disguised as men, many discovered on the battlefield and in hospitals after becoming wounded. In 1917 Loretta Walsh became the first woman to enlist. But it was not until 1948 that a law was finally passed that made women a permanent part of the military services. In 1976, the first group of women were admitted into a U.S. military academy. Currently, approximately 16% of the graduating West Point class consists of women.
In the years 1990 and 1991 some 40,000 American military women were deployed during the Gulf War operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. But not one woman was able to take on any form of combat. From 1994 on a policy prohibited women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level.
According to statistics from 2013, 15.6 percent of the U.S. Army’s 1.1 million soldiers, including National Guard and Reserve, were female. That year, women served in 95 percent of all army occupations.
Women in the military
The role of women in the military since 1914, particularly in combat, has been controversial. It is only recently that women have begun to be given a more prominent role in contemporary armed forces as increasing numbers of countries begin to expand the role of women in the military.
From the beginning of the 1970s, most Western armies have begun to admit women to serve in active duty in all of its military branches. In nine countries women are conscripted into military service.
Nursing became almost the only area of female contribution that involved being at the front and experiencing the war. In Britain the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and Voluntary Aid Detachment were all started before World War I. The VADs were not allowed in the front line until 1915. By 1916, the FANY began to work for the British Army as ambulance convoy drivers and, later that same year, the VAD started their own ambulance convoy.
More than 12,000 women enlisted in auxiliary roles in the United States Navy and Marine Corps during the First World War. About 400 of them died in that war.
Over 2,800 women served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War and it was during that era that the role of Canadian women in the military first extended beyond nursing. Women were given paramilitary training in small arms, drill, first aid and vehicle maintenance in case they were needed as home guards. Forty-three women in the Canadian military died during WWI.
The only belligerent to deploy female combat troops in substantial numbers was the Russian Provisional Government in 1917. Its few “Women’s Battalions” fought well, but failed to provide the propaganda value expected of them and were disbanded before the end of the year. In the later Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks would also employ women infantry.
In the 1918 Finnish Civil War, more than 2,000 women fought in the paramilitary Women’s Red Guards
Prior to the 1993 Department of Defense assignment rule, 67 percent of the positions in the Army were open to women. Today, 78 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women, and women serve in 95 percent of all Army occupations (active duty and the reserve components), as of 2014. In the U.S. Air Force, 99% of career fields are open to women, the only ones prohibited to women are Special Tactics Officer, Combat Control, Special Operations Weather Technician, Combat Rescue Officer, Pararescue and Tactical Air Control Party.
In January 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued an order to end the policy of “no women in units that are tasked with direct combat”, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join the US Army’s Special Forces.
In 2013 female U.S Army soldiers are being asked to take part in a new training course designed by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, which is specifically designed for Female Engagement Team members. The course will help female soldiers train for tasks such as unexploded ordnance awareness, biometrics, forensics, evidence collection, tactical questioning, vehicle and personnel searches, instructions on how homemade explosive devices are made and how to recognize if a device is homemade. This change will open up hundreds of thousands of front-line positions for women. The goal is for all assessments to be complete and have women fully integrated into all roles in the army by 2016.
By May 2015, all nineteen women vying to become the first female Army Rangers had failed their training at Ranger School. Eleven of the nineteen dropped out in the first four days of training. Of the remaining eight who failed in the next step, three were given the option to enroll in the course again. Two of the original 19 women graduated in August 2015. A third graduated in October 2015.
In April 2015 after 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. 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.
In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women, however Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford of the Marine Corps, wanted to keep certain direct combat positions such as infantry and machine gunner closed to women.
The decision to officially permit women to assume combat roles was due to the fact that women had served in combat roles from the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Women have been injured, killed, and awarded some of the highest honors. Two women have received the Silver Star, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester in 2005, and Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown in 2007 for their actions in combat. Over 10,000 combat action badges have been awarded to women who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated “It was a reality, because women had seen combat throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — serving, fighting and in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice alongside their fellow comrades in arms.
Physical, social and cultural issues
Many believe having both men and women in a combat unit reduces unit cohesion. Marine Corps study released in September found that women in unit created to assess how female service members perform in combat were significantly injured twice as often as men, less accurate with infantry weapons and not as good at removing wounded troops from the battlefield, according to the results of study produced by the service.
The research was carried out by the service in a nine-month long experiment at both Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Twenty-nine Palms, Calif. About 400 Marines, including 100 women, volunteered to join the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, the unit the Marine Corps created to compare how men and women do in a combat environment.
“This is unprecedented research across the services,” said Marine Col. Anne Weinberg, the deputy director of the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office. “What we tried to get to is what that individual’s contribution to the collective unit is. We all fight as units… We’re more interested in how the Marine Corps fights as units and how that combat effectiveness is either advanced or degraded.” The Marine Corps research found that all-male squads, teams and crews demonstrated better performance on 93 of 134 tasks evaluated (69 percent) than units with women in them. Units comprising all men also were faster than units with women while completing tactical movements in combat situations, especially in units with large “crew-served” weapons like heavy machine guns and mortars, the study found. Infantry squads comprising men only also had better accuracy than squads with women in them, with “a notable difference between genders for every individual weapons system” used by infantry rifleman units. They include the M4 carbine, the M27 infantry automatic rifle and the M203, a single-shot grenade launcher mounted to rifles.
The research also found that male Marines who have not received infantry training were still more accurate using firearms than women who have. And in removing wounded troops from the battlefield, there “were notable differences in execution times between all-male and gender-integrated groups,” with the exception being when a single person—”most often a male Marine” — carried someone away, the study found.
There may be some social explanations for why unit cohesion is lower in mixed gender groups. As noted by many female soldiers, the way that they are viewed by male soldiers is often detrimental to their participation in the unit. For instance, the female soldiers are often labelled as “either standoffish or a slut”. In order to avoid being labelled as either of these, a female soldier has to spend time with fellow soldiers strategically. This means that she is careful to not spend too much time with any one male soldier, and this often has an isolating effect. In several instances, women will also be considered less skilled than the male soldiers, so will not be given the opportunities to complete tasks that they are qualified to do and will continuously have to prove themselves as capable. Therefore, lack of cohesion with units could be because of female soldier’s perceived incapability to be a soldier.
There are worries about romantic or sexual relationships developing, potentially inappropriate fraternization, or that a woman might get pregnant. Some people are not willing to accept the risk of women being captured and tortured and possibly sexually assaulted, which happened to then-Major Rhonda Cornum. Some argue that there is a shortage of male combat soldiers and that women should not be treated as second-class citizens in the military.
According to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Israeli soldiers reacted with uncontrollable protectiveness and aggression after seeing a woman wounded. Grossman also notes that Islamic militants rarely, if ever, surrender to female soldiers, lessening the IDF’s ability to interrogate prisoners. On the other hand, Iraqi and Afghan civilians are often not intimidated by female soldiers. However, in such environments, having female soldiers serving in a combat unit does have the advantage of allowing for searches on female civilians. Children and women are more likely to talk to female soldiers than to male soldiers.
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
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”.
Motherhood accounts for 58% of hospitalizations among active-duty female troops.
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.
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. 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.
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. The Swiss Armed Forces abolished this advantage for female soldiers in 2007.
The purported disruption of a combat unit’s morale is cited as another reason for women to be banned from front-line combat situations.
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 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.
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.
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 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.”
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 and failure.
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.
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 at checkpoints both on the Iraq-Syrian border and inside urban areas. 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.
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.
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. 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.
In December 2015, the Pentagon announced that all combat roles would be opened to women. The roles include driving tanks, firing mortars, and leading infantry soldiers into combat. Women would also be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Infantry and Air Force parajumpers. Proponents of women in combat argue that women have been serving in Afghanistan and Iraq for 15 years and preventing them from combat operations is discriminatory. Opponents argue that allowing women to serve in these roles would limit the military’s ability to fight in combat situations.
Women on submarines
A female Royal Australian Navy submariner aboard HMAS Waller in 2013
U.S. Navy’s women submariners meet President Obama, 2012
In 1985 the Royal Norwegian Navy became the first navy in the world to permit female personnel to serve in submarines, followed by the appointment of a female submarine captain in 1995.The Danish Navy allowed women on submarines in 1988, the Swedish Navy in 1989, followed by the Royal Australian Navy in 1998, Canada in 2000, and Spain; all operators of conventional submarines.
Women serving alongside men on submarines creates the need to segregate accommodation and facilities, the U.S. Navy estimating that modifying its submarines to accommodate women would cost $300,000 per bunk versus $4,000 per bunk to allow women to serve on aircraft carriers.
Recent U.S. Navy policy allowed three exceptions for women being on board military submarines: (1) female civilian technicians for a few days at most, (2) women midshipmen on an overnight during summer training for both Navy ROTC and Naval Academy, and (3) family members for one-day dependent cruises.
In October 2009, the U.S. secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced that he and the chief of naval operations were moving aggressively to change the policy. Reasons included the fact that larger SSGN and SSBN submarines now in the fleet had more available space and could accommodate female officers with little or no modification. Also, the availability of qualified female candidates with the desire to serve in this capacity was cited. It was noted that women now represented 15 percent of the active duty Navy and that women today earn about half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. A policy change was deemed to serve the aspirations of women, the mission of the Navy, and the strength of its submarine force.
In February 2010, the Secretary of Defense approved the proposed policy and signed letters formally notifying Congress of the intended change. After receiving no objection, the Department of the Navy officially announced on April 29, 2010, that it had authorized women to serve aboard submarines.
The first group of U.S. female submariners completed nuclear power school and officially reported on board two ballistic and two guided missile submarines in November 2011.
In 2012, it was announced that 2013 will be the first year women will serve on U.S. attack submarines. On June 22, 2012, a sailor assigned to USS Ohio (SSGN 726) became the first female supply officer to qualify in U.S. submarines. In 2015 the U.S. Submarine Force will begin accepting applications for the Enlisted Women in Submarines (EWIS) Initiative. This is a detailed process that will systematically place enlisted female Sailors on OHIO Class submarines. Female Sailors from all communities and ratings will be afforded the opportunity to be among the first to join the U.S. Naval Submarine Service.
In May 2014, it was announced that three women had become the Royal Navy’s first female submariners.
Women are expected in French submarines by the end of 2017.
Sexual harassment and assault
Female soldiers have developed several techniques for avoiding sexual assault “including: (1) relying on support networks [buddy systems], (2) capitalizing on their status (associated with rank, age, time spent in military, or prior deployment experience); and, (3) masking femininity through clothing to minimize violence exposure and to keep themselves and others safe during military service”. While these techniques are useful, they are also problematic in several ways. Firstly, these strategies demonstrate that it becomes the responsibility of the women to keep themselves safe instead of challenging the rape culture within the military. Secondly, because of the ratio between men and women, women will often have to “buddy up” with male unit members. The male unit member then becomes a “protector” of the female soldier. This situation re-creates the female body as vulnerable and weak in relation to the strong, male body.
Some reports show that a woman in the military is three times more likely than a woman in the general population to be raped, and in Iraq are more likely to be attacked by one of their own than an insurgent. In 1988, the first sexual harassment survey was created military-wide which found that 64% of military women have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment. Those found to be affected the greatest were Native-American women, followed by Hispanic and African-American women. There is currently a lawsuit in the US military in which the plaintiffs claim to have been subjected to sexual assaults in the military.
A documentary called The Invisible War has been made on this lawsuit and topic. Sexual assault is often one of the most physically and mentally detrimental strains women in the military face, and often leads to the development of PTSD. Research shows that sleep depravation and chronic pain are often found in women who experience sexual trauma. Sexual assault has been seen to affect several parts of military women’s lives. Military women who are sexual assault victims more often fail to complete college, and generally earn annual incomes less than $25,000. Because this is a work environment for military women, it involves very frequent interactions with their perpetrator, and triggers a loss of trust from a personal and military perspective. Because the perpetrator is typically in a position of higher command or is one whose job is to protect the woman, this causes an increase in traumatization.
Reports also demonstrate that women in the military are challenging the idea of their responsibility in cases of rape and sexual assault: “recent changes in the military’s sexual assault prevention training have the potential to challenge women’s responsibility for preventing rape. “This training now has a stronger focus on bystander interventions and the nature of consent in sexual activity, each working to emphasize the importance of the responsibility of male soldiers. With such training becoming more widespread, militaries are working to empower women through their participation, allowing women to take on the classically male role of “protector”. Not only does this work to change women’s “responsibility for preventing rape”, but also requires that male soldiers acknowledge their responsibilities when it comes to engage with female soldiers in both sexual and non-sexual activities.
History/women in world wars
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).In the First World War, Russia, after the February Revolution, used one all-female combat unit. Thousands of women served in combat and rearguard roles in the Spanish Civil War. 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. 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. A few women also played combat roles in resistance movements in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia
In Great Britain just before World War I there were 24 million adult women and 1.7 million worked in domestic service, 800,000 worked in the textile manufacturing industry, 600,000 worked in the clothing trades, 500,000 worked in commerce, and 260,000 worked in local and national government, including teaching. The British textile and clothing trades, in particular, employed far more women than men and were regarded as ‘women’s work’.
While some women managed to enter the traditionally male career paths, women, for the most part, were expected to be primarily involved in “duties at home” and “women’s work”. Before 1914, only a few countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and several Scandinavian nations, had given women the right to vote (see Women’s suffrage), but otherwise, women were minimally involved in the political process.
The two world wars hinged as much on industrial production as they did on battlefield clashes. With millions of men away fighting and with the inevitable casualties, there was a severe shortage of labour in a range of industries, from rural and farm work to urban office jobs.
During both world wars women were needed by the national war effort to undertake new roles. In Great Britain, this was known as a process of “Dilution” and was strongly contested by the trade unions, particularly in the engineering and ship building industries. For the duration of both World Wars, women sometimes did take on skilled “men’s work”. However, in accordance with the agreement negotiated with the trade unions, women undertaking jobs covered by the Dilution agreement lost their jobs at the end of the First World War.
World War I
By 1914 nearly 5.09 million out of the 23.8 million women in Britain were working. Thousands worked in munitions factories (see Canary girl), offices and large hangars used to build aircraft. Women were also involved in knitting socks for the soldiers on the front, as well as other voluntary work, but as a matter of survival women had to work for paid employment for the sake of their families. Many women worked as volunteers serving at the Red Cross, encouraged the sale of war bonds or planted “victory gardens”.
Not only did women have to keep “the home fires burning” but they took on voluntary and paid employment that was diverse in scope and showed that women were capable in diverse fields of endeavour. There is little doubt this expanded the view of the role of women in society and changed the outlook of what women could do and their place in the workforce. Although women were still paid less than men in the workforce, pay inequalities were starting to diminish as women were now getting paid two-thirds of the typical pay for men, a 28% increase. However, the extent of this change is open to historical debate. In part because of female participation in the war effort Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and a number of European countries extended suffrage to women in the years after the First World War.
British historians[why?] no longer emphasize the granting of woman suffrage as a reward for women’s participation in war work. Pugh (1974) argues that enfranchising soldiers primarily and women secondarily was decided by senior politicians in 1916. In the absence of major women’s groups demanding equal suffrage, the government’s conference recommended limited, age-restricted women’s suffrage. The suffragettes had been weakened, Pugh argues, by repeated failures before 1914 and by the disorganizing effects of war mobilization; therefore they quietly accepted these restrictions, which were approved in 1918 by a majority of the War Ministry and each political party in Parliament. More generally, G. R. Searle (2004) argues that the British debate was essentially over by the 1890s, and that granting the suffrage in 1918 was mostly a byproduct of giving the vote to male soldiers. Women in Britain finally achieved suffrage on the same terms as men in 1928
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.
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.
Thousands of women served as nurses and in other support roles in the major armies.
The only nation to deploy female combat troops in substantial numbers was Russia. From the outset, female recruits either joined up in disguise or were tacitly accepted by their units. The most prominent were a contingent of front-line light cavalry in a Cossack regiment commanded by a female colonel, Alexandra Kudasheva. Others included the famous Maria Bochkareva, who was decorated three times and promoted to senior NCO rank, while the New York Times reported that a group of twelve schoolgirls from Moscow had joined up together disguised as young men. In 1917, the Provisional Government raised a number of “Women’s Battalions”, with Bochkareva given an officer’s commission to command the first unit. They fought well, but failed to provide the propaganda value expected of them and were disbanded before the end of the year. In the later Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks employed some women infantry, while female soldiers are also recorded in the White Guard.
In the 1918 Finnish Civil War, more than 2,000 women fought in the Women’s Red Guards.
In the Spanish Civil War, thousands of women were integrated into mixed-gender combat and rearguard units, or fought as part of militias.
World War II
All the main nations used women in uniform. A majority of the tasked women performed included nursing, clerical or support roles. Over 500,000 had combat roles in anti-aircraft units in Britain and Germany, and front-line units in Soviet Union.
After the world wars
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo began training an initial 150 women as para-commandos for the Armée Nationale Congolaise in 1967 and many more were trained subsequently, over a period of several years at least. The women received complete jump training as well as weapons training although it is unclear to what extent they were actually integrated into the combat units of the Congo.
In 1938, the British took the lead worldwide in establishing uniformed services for women, in addition to the small units of nurses that had long been in operation. In late 1941, Britain began conscripting women, sending most into factory work and some into the military, especially the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), attached to the army. It began as a woman’s auxiliary to the military in 1938, and in 1941 was granted military status (with 2/3 pay compared to men). Women had a well-publicized role in handling anti-aircraft guns against German planes and V-1 missiles. The daughter of Prime Minister Winston Churchill was there, and he gushed that any general who saved him 40,000 fighting men had gained the equivalent of a victory. By August, 1941, women were operating the fire-control instruments; they were never allowed to pull the trigger, as killing the enemy was considered to be too masculine. By 1943, 56,000 women were in Anti-Aircraft Command, most in units close to London where there was a risk of getting killed, but no risk of getting captured by the enemy. The first “kill” came in April 1942.
In July 2016 all exclusions on women serving in Ground Close Combat (GCC) roles were lifted.
All roles in 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.
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.
Six British women in the Iraq War, and three in the Afghanistan War were killed in action
The Third Reich, contrary to popular belief, had similar roles for women. The SS-Helferinnen were regarded as part of the SS if they had undergone training at a Reichsschule SS but all other female workers were regarded as being contracted to the SS and chosen largely from concentration camps. Women also served in auxiliary units in the navy (Kriegshelferinnen), air force (Luftnachrichtenhelferinnen) and army (Nachrichtenhelferin).
In 1944-45 roughly 500,000 women were volunteer uniformed auxiliaries in the German armed forces (Wehrmacht). About the same number served in civil aerial defense, 400,000 volunteered as nurses, and many more replaced drafted men in the wartime economy. In the Luftwaffe they served in combat roles helping to operate the anti-aircraft systems that shot down Allied bombers. By 1945, German women were holding 85% of the billets as clericals, accountants, interpreters, laboratory workers, and administrative workers, together with half of the clerical and junior administrative posts in high-level field headquarters.
Germany had a very large and well-organized nursing service, with four main organizations, one for Catholics, one for Protestants, the secular DRK (Red Cross) and the “Brown Nurses,” for committed Nazi women. Military nursing was primarily handled by the DRK, which came under partial Nazi control. Frontline medical services were provided by male medics and doctors. Red Cross nurses served widely within the military medical services, staffing the hospitals that perforce were close to the front lines and at risk of bombing attacks. Two dozen were awarded the Iron Cross for heroism under fire. The brief historiography focuses on the dilemmas of Brown Nurses forced to look the other way while their incapacitated patients were murdered.
Hundreds of women auxiliaries (Aufseherin) served in the SS in the camps, the majority of which were at Ravensbrück. In Germany women also worked, and were told by Hitler to produce more pure Aryan children to fight in future wars.
In 2001, Germany opened all combat units to women. This greatly increased recruitment for female soldiers. Since 2001, the number of women in the German Armed Forces has tripled. By 2009, 800 female soldiers were serving in combat units.
The Yugoslav National Liberation Movement claimed 6,000,000 civilian supporters; its two million women formed the Antifascist Front of Women (AFŽ), in which the revolutionary coexisted with the traditional. The AFŽ managed schools, hospitals and even local governments. About 100,000 women served with 600,000 men in Tito’s Yugoslav National Liberation Army. It stressed its dedication to women’s rights and gender equality and used the imagery of traditional folklore heroines to attract and legitimize the partizanka. After the war women were relegated to traditional gender roles, but Yugoslavia is unique as its historians paid extensive attention to women’s roles in the resistance, until the country broke up in the 1990s. Then the memory of the women soldiers faded away.
The Israeli enemy is the only entity in the world that has compulsory military service requirements for women. The compulsory recruitment of unmarried women and women without children began in 1948.
Initially, all female recruits served in the Women’s Army Corps, where they worked as clerks, drivers, social workers, nurses, radio operators, flight controllers, ammunition officers and course instructors. The roles of women, who were no more than technical and logistical support in the late 1970s and early 1980s, began with a new pattern of action, starting with friction with combat units.
In 2000, the amendment of equality in the Military Service Act granted equal opportunities in the military field to women who found physical and personal occasions for the job. Women began to gain combat support and light combat roles in a few areas, including artillery, infantry and armored divisions. A few of the so-called Carakal factions were formed for men and women to work together in light infantry.
The amendment of the Israeli enemy Military Equality Act of 2000 states that “the right of women to serve in any role in the army of the Zionist entity equals the right of men.” As of 2011, 88% to 92% of all roles in the Zionist army were open to candidates, while women could be found in 69% of all positions.
Despite these changes, the enemy army recognizes that less than 4 per cent of women are in combat positions such as infantry, tank crews or other armored vehicles, artillery service, combat pilots, etc. But is concentrated in “combat support.
In 1999 the BBC reported that about a quarter of the Eritrean soldiers in the Eritrean–Ethiopian War were women.
Several hundred thousand women in countries such as England, Soviet Union, served in combat roles, especially in anti-aircraft units. The U.S. decided not to use women in combat because public opinion would not tolerate it.
Germany had presented an ideal female role at home, but the urgent need for war production led to the hiring of millions of German women for factory and office work.
Many women served in the resistances of France, Italy, and Poland, and in the British SOE and American OSS which aided these.
Approximately 2 million Jewish women in the Holocaust were killed, and the Nazis also killed other women who belonged to groups they were committing genocide against, such as women with disabilities and Roma women
Asia and Pacific
Minority women, called comfort women, were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II. Korean women were especially used.
But a far greater number of women worked in war industry than in sex slavery. Women in Japan and Korea also performed industrial labor duties during the war. They helped make bombs and guns and airplanes, etc.
Australian women during World War II played a larger role than they had during The First World War, when they primarily served as nurses and additional homefront workers. Many women wanted to play an active role in the war, and hundreds of voluntary women’s auxiliary and paramilitary organisations had been formed by 1940. A shortage of male recruits forced the military to establish female branches in 1941 and 1942. Women entered roles which had traditionally been limited to men, but continued to receive lower wages.
The Australian military began a five-year plan to open combat roles to women in 2011. Front line combat roles opened in January 2013. The positions women will now be able to fill are: Navy Ordnance disposal divers, airfield and ground defense guards, infantry, artillery and armored units.
Canadian women in the World Wars became indispensable because the World Wars were total wars that required the maximum effort of the civilian population. While Canadians were deeply divided on the issue of conscription for men, there was wide agreement that women had important new roles to play in the home, in civic life, in industry, in nursing, and even in military uniforms. Historians debate whether there was much long-term impact on the postwar roles of women.
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.
Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces are the female soldiers who serve in the Pakistan Armed Forces. Women have been taking part in Pakistani military since 1947 after the establishment of Pakistan. There are currently around 4,000 women who are serving in the Pakistan Armed Forces. In 2006, the first women fighter pilots batch joined the combat aerial mission command of PAF
India began recruiting women to non-medical positions in the armed forces in 1992.
In 2007 on 19 January, the United Nations first all-female peacekeeping force made up of 105 Indian policewomen was deployed to Liberia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 1.7% of women serve in combat infantry.
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.
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.Norway was, along with Israel, first to allow women to serve in all combat roles in the military in 1988. In 2015, Norway made women eligible for compulsory military 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 have been able to serve in all positions in the Swedish military since 1989. Currently, about 5.5% of all officers are women.
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 and the Independence War. Sabiha Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot,having flown 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8,000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions.
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.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.
Women in World War II took on a variety of roles from country to country. World War II involved global conflict on an unprecedented scale; the absolute urgency of mobilizing the entire population made the expansion of the role of women inevitable. The hard skilled labor of women was symbolized in the United States by the concept of Rosie the Riveter, a woman factory laborer performing what was previously considered man’s work.
With this expanded horizon of opportunity and confidence, and with the extended skill base that many women could now give to paid and voluntary employment, women’s roles in World War II were even more extensive than in the First World War. By 1945, more than 2.2 million women were working in war industries, especially in munitions plants. They participated in the building of ships, aircraft, vehicles, and weaponry. Women also worked on farms, drove trucks, provided logistic support for soldiers and entered professional areas of work that were previously the preserve of men. In the Allied countries thousands of women enlisted as nurses serving in the front line units. Thousands of others joined defensive militias at home and there was a great increase in the number of women serving for the military itself, particularly in the Soviet Union’s Red Army.
During World War II, approximately 400,000 U.S. women served in support positions with the armed forces and more than 460 — some sources say the figure is closer to 543 — lost their lives as a result of the war, including 16 from enemy fire. Women became officially recognized as a permanent part of the U.S. armed forces after the war with the passing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948.
The ability for women to be involved overseas opened doors for many underrepresented groups, including Latinas, to serve their country.
Wikinews has related news: Pentagon announces end to ban on women in combat
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.
A 2008 study by Jennifer M. Silva, a sociologist of culture and inequality (her goal is to investigate the relationship between systems of inequality), found that the female cadets saw military training as an “opportunity to be strong, assertive and skillful” and saw such training “as an escape from some of the negative aspects of traditional femininity”. The female cadets also believed that the ROTC program was “gender-blind” and “gender-neutral”. The study claims that female cadets “were hyper-vigilant about their status as women performing tasks traditionally seen as men’s work and often felt that they had to constantly prove they were capable.”
Silva’s study found gender playing a role in how cadets perceive leadership, quoting one female cadet: “in the Navy the joke is that a woman in the Navy is either a bitch, a slut or a lesbian, and none of them are good categories to fall into, and if you are stern with your people then you are a bitch, but if you’re a guy and stern people are like, wow, I respect him for being a good leader.”
Of the female cadets Silva interviewed, 84 percent said they did not want a military career as it would interfere with being able to get married and have children.
A study conducted by Matthews et al. 2009 to examine the attitudes of West Point cadets, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, and non-military-affiliated students from civilian colleges toward a variety of roles that women may serve in the military. The results showed that military cadets were less approving of women being assigned to certain military jobs than non-military students.
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.
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. 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. However it was later reported on January 3, 2017 that three women who graduated became the first join a Marine combat battalion that would serve as a rifleman, machine gunner and mortar Marine in the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
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. 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.
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. 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.
In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women. 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.
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.
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. 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.
On September 25, 2017, an anonymous woman became the first to complete the United States Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia and become the first female Marine infantry officer.
The proportion of female military personnel varies internationally; for example, it is approximately 3% in India, 10% in the UK, 13% in Sweden, 16% in the US, 27% in South Africa, and 60 to 70%t of the total in Israel the enemy.
Many state armed forces that recruit women continue to bar them from ground close combat roles (roles that would require them to kill at close quarters).
Compared with male personnel and female civilians, female personnel face substantially higher risks of sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to British, Canadian, and US research.
Women in combat jobs through media
Opinions about women in combat jobs vary on social media
The decision by Defense Secretary Ash Carter in early December 2015 to open all military combat jobs to women has seen mixed reactions on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Many people had no problem voicing their opinion on Facebook, with a healthy mix of positive, negative and neutral responses. Quite a few comments came from military personnel or veterans, with some posts on Facebook from official news sources such as Fox News and CNN receiving more than 700 comments alone.
“LOL all you SHARP reps (for my civilian friends, that’s the sexual harassment assault and rape prevention representative) your job is gonna be so much more fun, ha-ha,” read one post.
Another person posted: “Wrong … the headline should read … Obama-appointed civilian, both of whom never served, want to PC military even more.”
The statement most commonly made concerned registration for Selective Service, which would make women between the ages of 18 and 25 eligible for a draft.
One post asked, “So when are all women going to register for the selective service?” Another read, “I’m all for it, as long as they can meet the standard. Along with their quest for equality, women and transgender that identify as women should be required to register with Selective Service, as all men 18-25 are required to do.”
Male or female, many voiced another concern — whether standards would be lowered for females in order for them to pass the rigorous training standards for many combat occupations.
“I think it is absurd that we, as females, demand lower (physical training) requirements and at the same time demand combat positions that depend on physical strength and abilities. If we want to be treated as equals, we should be prepared to be treat(ed) as equal in ALL ways. Not just the ones that benefit us. I do think there are women who can out perform men in those roles but they are the exception, not the norm. I am in the Army and feel I am a great asset. That doesn’t mean I am vain enough to think I would do this country a great service in any and all positions.”
The post continued with, “Every unit I have been in has lowered or changed the standard for females and I doubt this will be any different. It is a shame. All women should have to sign up for the selective service now, right? We need to be fair. When females fail out of (Advanced Individual Training) — they need to be sent to Infantry even if they don’t want it, right? If all females want to be treated as equals, it should be all the way — not picking and choosing what suits us.”
The reaction of another female Army soldier was a tribute to her predecessors.
“Many years ago I sat next to a woman on a plane ride to (Washington, D.C.) who had been in the military when women were first allowed to serve in the Army. We spoke the entire trip about being a female in the Army and what it was like for her. When we were about to land, I looked her in the eyes and did my best to not get emotional while telling her how thankful I was to her for giving me my livelihood. She was a trailblazer and so brave. She looked back at me with tears and said ‘you are the future.’ I hope we have made her proud today. This wasn’t a female accomplishment. This was an Army accomplishment.”
One former Marine wasn’t too sure about the decision being an accomplishment, however.
“Those of you cheering this on have no clue to this subject. Regardless of the conducted studies, SecDef Carter’s made up his mind long ago, and will only result in more of us getting hurt and/or killed.”
One soldier was more concerned with getting forced out of the military in order to let a female take the position.
“The day has arrived. Looks like more soldiers will be forced out so the army can meet these numbers.”
But one question summed up what hundreds of people were asking on Facebook posts when it came to opening up combat positions to women: “Is it because our younger male generation of millennials are afraid to serve their country?”
Based on this context, New York Times published an article in 2015 under title “Women in Combat Jobs”.
American women demonstrated that they were fit to serve and could excel in combat long before the Pentagon set out in 2013 to do away with male-only career fields in the armed forces. After a painstaking review, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced from three years ago that the military would open all ground combat jobs to women.
“There will be no exceptions,” Mr. Carter told reporters. “As long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”
It was a powerfully symbolic and sound policy move. While there will be logistical challenges as the Pentagon continues to break down barriers for women, doing so will make the military stronger and will narrow America’s gender equality gap.
There were, however, troubling signs that Mr. Carter could face political opposition and bureaucratic foot-dragging as the new policy is carried out.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., did not appear alongside Mr. Carter when he made the announcement. General Dunford, a Marine, has argued that a few jobs should remain closed to women. And Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a terse statement saying that lawmakers would “review the implications” of a decision that he said would have “a consequential impact on our service members and our military’s warfighting capabilities.”
Their attitudes echo those of leaders who decades ago warned about the perils of integrating African-Americans in the military and, more recently, suggested that allowing openly gay people to serve in uniform would hurt unit cohesion.
The naysayers this time appear to be driven primarily by sexism. The military, after all, has long been led by men. Its pre-eminent jobs have been reserved for men. And in recent decades, even as women have been allowed to serve more closely with men and in more types of jobs in the armed forces, many have felt unfairly relegated to second-tier status. The announcement on Thursday will accelerate the dismantling of the last gender barriers.
In taking this step, the United States is following the lead of several close allies, including Israel, Canada and several European nations, that already allow women to serve in front-line combat jobs.
The American military has said that physical standards will not be lowered to enable women to serve in all roles. The Army and the Marine Corps found in recent studies that women were injured more often than men during combat training exercises, especially those that required carrying heavy equipment. Rather than use that as an excuse to bar women from combat roles, the military must find ways to more effectively train women for front-line combat and other warfare scenarios that female service members have routinely faced in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
Mr. Carter noted that allowing women to serve in all roles could hinder cooperation with some allied nations where men are “culturally opposed to working with women.” The Iraq and Afghanistan wars demonstrated that those challenges can be managed.
Some lawmakers have asked whether women should now be required to register in the Selective Service System, as young men are required to do. Congress would have to change that law, but it could be done easily.
If there were any doubts that women could perform the most grueling tasks in the military, they were put to rest by two soldiers who made history this summer by graduating from the Army’s arduous Ranger course.
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.
Lebanese ministry of information
Studies and Publications Directorate