11
   

Women in frontline combat roles.

 
 
Eorl
 
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 07:52 am
Quote:
The Government wants to attract more women to the Australian Defence Force by removing blanket restrictions which stop women from joining frontline infantry units, including the commandos and the SAS, as well as taking on certain roles in the Navy and Air Force.

He says the Federal Government wants to break down gender barriers in the ADF by reviewing who does what based on physical capabilities, rather than gender."


attacked thusly:

Quote:
"I don't think the people of Australia would like to see their daughters, sisters, wives or female friends killed in disproportionate numbers to male service personnel," he said.

"It's a simple physicality thing. On the battlefield, academic gender equity theory doesn't apply. The laws of physics and biomechanics apply."

Mr James says there is also evidence that male soldiers are overly protective of women in the battlefield, which is a distraction from the task.


There was much talk of hygiene issues also, mostly based on menstruation.

My instant reaction is, why not? Plenty of women will outclass plenty of men on the field, averages don't come into it. Why restrict anyone's career based on their sex alone? If they can do it, let them do it.

I hear (thought it may be wrong) that Australian women have to pass different physical tests than men, and that for the tests to be the same would be discriminatory. That doesn't work... does it?

How does it work in other countries?
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 09:14 am
Canada has now had a couple of women killed in Afghanistan. I started a thread on the first Canadian woman killed there, but it didn't get much mileage. There was a very poignant passage during the Gulf War of 1990-91, when one of the American news networks interviewed a woman who was a flying officer with the 101st Airborne Division, and she was killed during operations when the ground war with the Iraqis started. In the United States, theoretically, woman fill the same roles as men do. In practice, though, women aren't as often assigned to roles which will inevitably take them in harm's way--they are killed or wounded when they come under fire while in support roles, such as logistical roles. The major who was shot down in the Gulf War was flying resupply missions for the 101st as it moved into the desert in conjunction with the French Foreign Legion. In the invasion of Iraq, a young woman became a brief hero when her unit was shot up after "taking a wrong turn" in An Nasiriyah. That was "damage control" propaganda by the U.S. Army, though. An Nasiriyah is on the Euphrates River, and it was a major bottleneck for American forces, if the Iraqis could contest the crossing. The Iraqi command and control had broken down, but this is one of those things in which a military officer need only be experienced, and not a genius to figure it out. Local Iraqi commanders whipped up a fierce resistance for which Central Command (the U.S. Army's responsible command) had not, in its hubris, planned. That young woman's support and supply unit could only take wrong turns, because the built up areas of An Nasiriyah on the river approaches were crawling with small units of Iraqis. The Marines who were sent in had trouble dealing with the situation precisely because Iraqi command and control had broken down, so that taking out any one particular officer didn't end the resistance. Eventually, the Iraqis had to be hunted down house to house.

And that is typical of war. Which means that any nation's army which puts women in roles which might send them into harm's way will inevitably, eventually suffer casualties, including killed in action, among their women soldiers.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 09:17 am
By the way, just about any woman who is physically large enough to meet an army's entrance requirements will be able to handle the physical demands of active service, including in direct combat roles. Modern assault rifles don't require a body builder to use them effectively.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 09:48 am
I was told second-hand, that when Israeli women were put in the front line to shoot back at the opposing Arab army in one of the wars (perhaps, the '67 war?), the Arabs fought better, as soon as they heard they were shooting against women soldiers. The accepted explanation is that the Arab males would feel too humiliated if they lost to women. Losing to males was not really as humiliating, supposedly. So, Israeli women are likely not utilized as front-line combat soldiers today, at least not during planning.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  2  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 09:56 am
Continuing, I think there is a benefit for the western nations to have female military. Aside from the actual benefit of their labors, there is the benefit that when a western military has to occupy some patriarchal society, it is a good incentive for other patriarchal societies to not antagonize the western nations, since when we march in, the sight of women in uniform can add a certain instability to a patriarchal society (that had been based on dominating women in their daily lives).
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 10:22 am
@Eorl,
Eorl wrote:
I hear (thought it may be wrong) that Australian women have to pass different physical tests than men, and that for the tests to be the same would be discriminatory. That doesn't work... does it?

How does it work in other countries?


In the US, the tests are different as well, and though there are policies against women in combat roles the military has been bending them recently in Iraq as their support roles are the front lines in a guerrilla insurgency that relies on attacks like roadside bombs.

sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 12:30 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Interesting article about women in the US Military:

G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 12:32 pm
@sozobe,
Yeah, I remember that one (I read NY Times fairly regularly), there was another one on CNN that I was recalling in my above post.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 12:35 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I thought it was likely you'd read it, I posted it more in response to Eorl's "how does it work?" question.

An excerpt:

Quote:
No one envisioned that Afghanistan and Iraq would elevate the status of women in the armed forces.

But the Iraq insurgency obliterated conventional battle lines. The fight was on every base and street corner, and as the conflict grew longer and more complicated, the all-volunteer military required more soldiers and a different approach to fighting. Commanders were forced to stretch gender boundaries, or in a few cases, erase them altogether.

“We literally could not have fought this war without women,” said Dr. Nagl, who is now president of the Center for a New American Security, a military research institution in Washington.

Of the two million Americans who have fought in these wars since 2001, more than 220,000 of them, or 11 percent, have been women.


(Emphasis mine)
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 01:03 pm
Among the Kelts, female fighters were, at least allegedly, quite common. One of the reasons the Romans considered them barbarians was because in small skirmishes, such as an ambush on a Roman detachment, women would wait in the underbrush, and when the men had broken the Roman line, they would rush out and jump on the backs of individual Roman soldiers, and attempt to get past their armor and stab them. The ancient Irish mythic hero Cu Chulainn was said to have learned the use of arms from two women in what is now Scotland, then a colonial enterprise of the northern Irish. It is also claimed that the mother of "St." Brendan demanded that he end the teaching of the use of arms among Irish women after she had seen an armed brawl in which women were hacking at one another.

In historical times, women in combat have been recorded on several occasions. The Ashanti were arguably the most civilized of the tribes of West Africa, and a long interaction with Muslim and European traders and slavers has left a centuries long historiography which other tribes lack. The Ashanti eventually forged a stable kingdom which occupied most of and the central part of what is now Ghana. The Ashanti were said to have used "regiments" of female troops. The "Amazons" of Dahomey (in modern Benin and Togo) were even more legendary. "Kings" of the Dahomeans often had a hundred or more wives, and the Mino, as they were called were recruited from among their number. Families who complained that their daughters were ungovernable could have those girls forcibly recruited for the Mino. They were not allowed to bear children or to marry while members of the "regiment," and if previously married, were segregated from their husbands. They were bound to their regiment with elaborate and secretive Vodun rituals. When, in 1890, the King of Dahomey went to war with the French, he initially was able to use the "Amazons" to great effect. The French troops who encountered this regiment were reluctant to shoot them or bayonet them, and French casualties mounted out of all proportion to the balance of forces. Traditionally employing spears, knives and clubs, these female soldiers were also armed by their King with Winchester rifles purchased form the lucrative slave trade, with the enslaved people being captives from tribes who lost tribal wars with them. The dismay of the regular French troops was so great, that the Foreign Legion was brought in, and briefed before hand on the Mino, with orders to attack relentlessly. Even the Legionaires, however, were initially dismayed, and in their first encounter, only survived by forming brigade square. Eventually, the Mino were defeated by the use of machine guns and modern artillery.

Although the Dutch first encountered the Balinese at the end of the 16th century, it was not until the 19th century that they began to exercise any real influence. Bali had a royal and aristocratic caste which had, even in the midst of their own feuds and tribal wars, maintained their independence from the neighboring islands because of their fierce and suicidal determination in warfare. The Dutch only gradually increased their influence by exploiting the in-fighting between the various "kingdoms" of Bali. Women of the aristocratic caste were trained in arms, and usually joined in open warfare. When the Dutch used tragic and widespread warfare on Bali as an excuse to intervene in 1906, literally thousands of Balinese were slaughtered when they threw themselves at the Dutch troops, despite the machine guns and artillery they employed. The Dutch themselves estimated that 4,000 Balinese men and women marched relentlessly to their deaths rather than suffer the humiliation of surrender. When the Dutch landed to colonize in 1908, the Balinese did the same thing, although i don't know if the Dutch estimated their dead at that time. Because this took place in the early 20th century, the Dutch have left us many photographs of their valiant soldiers deploying their machine guns and artillery against the defenders, armed with shields and swords or spears, and of the ground literally carpeted with the Balinese dead, male and female.

After the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War, the Dutch moved quickly to re-establish their colonial rule. The Balinese rose against them once again, and the Balinese regiment which marched against them, armed with Japanese weapons they had captured in their guerilla war against the Japanese occupiers, was completely wiped out. I cannot say, however, if Balinese women participated in that suicide attack on the Dutch. Thanks to Margaret Mead and her team of ethnologists in the 1930s, the world came to view Bali as a paradise on earth, and have remained almost totally ignorant of their war-like character, and their fanatical refusal to surrender to any invader.

I suspect that a diligent search online would yield many more examples of women fighting in the front line in combat.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 01:26 pm
I remember my brother telling me about his first tour of this war in Iraq that one of the big problems was male soldiers staffing the checkpoints. Any man searching an Islamic woman is a big no-no. It was causing lots and lots or problems.

The commanders made a decision to staff the checkpoints with women. It made a huge difference in both security and attitude.

Staffing checkpoints is a very dangerous job.
0 Replies
 
Chumly
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 01:45 pm
The simple fact is that women lack upper body strength compared to men, this makes them less able to carry wounded, supplies and armament. Is it enough of a difference to matter? That depends on the circumstances, but yes it easily could be.
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 05:01 pm
I think it's a bad idea for the following reasons.

1. Most men wish to protect women, which precludes putting your own side's women in places where they are in mortal danger, and makes it very unpleasant to shoot at them.
2. Since many men feel the way I have described in item 1, that is, that they would like to keep women safe, it would have a terrible psychological effect on many men to ask them to shoot, stab, beat, strangle, bomb, etc. women (more so even than doing these things to other men). Most men would do it in a life and death situation, but would consider it to be traumatic (more so than killing men, which is already traumatic). It's really not fair to ask a man to kill a woman, and I think it would end up causing a lot of psychological problems for the men who had to do it.
3. In hand to hand combat, the average woman would be at a disadvantage against the average man. The statisical distributions of physical strength are not very close for the genders, although, of course, there is some overlap.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 05:51 pm
I am not going to do the work but about a month ago either NYT or WP did a huge story on this. The gist was that demands upon a too small force necessitated using women in front line combat roles in IRAQ. Commanders did this by shady paper work methods, where the documents purposefully misrepresented what the women were doing. Now that woman have served in combat roles for years, have done a pretty good job, and there was no ending of the universe as we know it is presumed that lawmakers will be forced to recognize reality, that is change the laws to allow women into combat roles.

theory and moral arguments have been over-run by events, they no longer apply. Reality as demonstrated trumps, the reality is that woman can do the job, do do the job, and there is no military reason not to let them do the job. Also, just as the bulk of the force is now open to openly gay individuals in the force, they are also open to women serving on the front lines. There is no danger to the unit cohesion argument to make, it has been proven to not be a problem.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 06:00 pm
@hawkeye10,
The article I linked to above was a major NYT article on this subject, though I'm not sure if it's the one you mean.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 06:19 pm
@sozobe,
yep, good piece. Sorry, I did not read through the thread....skimmed too fast.

My wife is headed off to Iraq for the third time, so the story caught my eye when it came out. She did Bosnia for a year long ago, the change from then is huge.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 09:05 pm
@Eorl,
I looked at an article on this just now.

It looks as though the suggestion is that requirements for frontline stuff would be uniform...mean and women reaching the requirements would be eligible, and that is that.

Seems the obvious way to go.

If X is what is required for a job, and you meet X, there it is.


These anti arguments are variants of the same ones that have been tried to prevent women from being regarded as adults under the law (bet how few of you are aware of how recently women were not regarded as capable of being seen as adults), going to university, voting, working in most jobs, getting equal pay for equal work etc.

I hate the idea of ANYONE being on ANY goddam frontline, but that's a whole different issue.
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Sep, 2009 09:11 pm
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:

I looked at an article on this just now. . . .
I hate the idea of ANYONE being on ANY goddam frontline, but that's a whole different issue.


Excellent point, Deb. So many people tend to muddy the waters when it comes to emotion-laden issues. Whenever I've argued in favor of a draft, there's always someone who claims that having standing armies leads to wars. I never said I was in favor of there being standing armies, just that as long as armies are seen as a necessity all citizens should participate in the defense of their country. Like you, I'd rather there was nobody on the front lines. But that ain't what we're talkin' about here, is it.
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Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 07:09 am
@Chumly,
Chumly wrote:

The simple fact is that women lack upper body strength compared to men, this makes them less able to carry wounded, supplies and armament. Is it enough of a difference to matter? That depends on the circumstances, but yes it easily could be.


This is kind of the point. If women with greater upper body strength than me exist, and I'm damn sure they do, despite my bagpipe playing, then they should be selected ahead of me, at least for that criterion. Please, after you ma'am..

or in other words.. what dlowan said.

I guess what it comes down to is... how many legitimate frontline activities require the use of one's penis?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Thu 10 Sep, 2009 07:58 am
It's ridiculous to contend that a woman would be excluded from modern combat roles because of an alleged lack of upper body strength. Any woman large enough to meet army entrance requirements could develop sufficient upper body strength to fulfill any role. This is just that "weaker vessel" bullshit redux. As for carrying a wounded comrade out of a fire fight, that's Hollywood crap. No one with combat experience would dream of standing up in a firefight without a damned good reason, and unless one had suicidal tendencies, and wanted to dramatically increase the probability that their comrade would be killed before receiving medical attention, one wouldn't attempt to pick them up to carry them to "safety."

For those who like their history a little fresher than the 19th century, consider the example of women during what the Soviets called the Great Patriotic War. Nearly one million women served in the Soviet armies, and a great many of them in combat roles. Many were employed as snipers--Lyudmila Pavlichenko killed more than 300 German officers and private soldiers, including more than 30 German snipers, for which she recieved the order of Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest commendation available. Pulled from combat to assure her survival (about three in four Soviet snipers did not survive the war), she was sent on a tour of North America and became the first Soviet citizen to meet an American president in the White House.

http://wio.ru/galgrnd/sniper/pavli.jpg

Pavlichenko in a Soviet publicity still.

The woman pictured below, Rosa Shanina, had more than one hundred kills as a sniper:

http://www.yaplakal.com/uploads/post-3-12326736262047.jpg

Three all-female aviation regiments served in the Great Patriotic War. Two of them were re-designated as Guards regiments, the highest honor awarded to combat units, meaning they were considered elite units. The 588th Night Bomber Regiment, later designated a Guards unit, flew more than 24,000 missions by war's end. The two women pictured below flew 18 sorties in a single night:

http://www.seizethesky.com/nwitches/popova.jpg

The entire regiment was female, including the mechanics and ground support personnel. It was founded by Marina Raskova, who, in 1938, helped set the then world record endurance flight for women, when she and two companions flew more than 6000 km. The Night Witches, as the Germans called them, flew obsolete biplanes the top speed of which (about 90 mph) was slower than the stall speed of Me109s and FW190s, which meant the women could avoid German fighters by throwing their planes into a tight turn which would cause the Germans to overshoot them and lose them in the night sky. The regiment was the most highly decorated Soviet aviation regiment of the war.

Lilya Litvyak was known as "the White Rose of Stalingrad," flying five or six sorties a day. She was also awarded the order of Hero of the Soviet Union, posthumously, 47 years after she was shot down in combat. Lt. Litvyak had at least 11 kills (the number is in dispute). Below is a photo of Lt. Litvyak:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/Vincent2/Forums/devushki/chast1/2.jpg


http://wio.ru/aces/gal0/budanova.jpg

Ekaterina "Katya" Budanova also was credited with 11 kills.

Manshuk Mametova from Kazakhstan was the first Soviet "Asian" to be awarded the order of Hero of the Soviet Union. She was a machine gunner who was killed in action. A great many women served as drivers in armored units, apparently because it was thought that with a slighter stature, they would do better in the cramped conditions. Although few Soviet women were promoted to officer rank, other than the pilots, Alexandra Samusenko rose to command a tank battalion--she was killed in action in 1945. Her photo is below:

http://www.mdf.ru/i/photo/011/11453.jpg

Many women served as partisans behind German lines. The numbers of them who fought the Germans in the role is not known. Below are some photos of female partisans in the Great Patriotic War:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/Vincent2/Forums/devushki/chast2/9.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/Vincent2/Forums/devushki/chast1/13.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v36/Vincent2/Forums/devushki/chast2/12.jpg

(That last one looks staged, i doubt if partisans went into combat wearing their medals.)

Certainly the majority of Soviet women filled roles in rear areas which released men to go to the front--about 40% of doctors in the Soviet armies were women. However, the example of Soviet women demonstrates clearly that if a woman wants to fight, there is no role a man can fill that a woman cannot fill.
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