Women on the battlefield

Many countries have women in their armed forces, including the US, but this AP story tries to make the point that they are at significant risk even if they are not in front-line ground-combat positions:

Lynch’s job — Army supply clerk in a maintenance company — illustrates one of the realities of the war: No place is safe. As the insurgency took hold, that grew even more apparent. Front lines don’t exist. Combat troops still face the heaviest losses and while women are mostly in support roles, a mortar or bomb can strike anywhere from a mess hall to a supply convoy.

“My dad has friends who constantly tell him, ‘Oh, your daughter’s fine in Iraq. She’s not in harm’s way or she’s not involved in combat,'” says Capt. Mary Caruso, who served two tours in Iraq, one as a platoon leader in the 194th Military Police Company.

“I don’t think the general public really sees what females are doing over there,” she says. “We don’t have a linear battlefield anymore. The enemy’s everywhere.”

I think that is true to a degree, but find it most interesting how a shift in perception of equal risk is being used to argue for equal rights for women. That is to say even if they do not serve in combat roles to avoid death or capture, they may just as easily face death or capture. So the reason for the ban requires re-evaluation.

In terms of physical differences, another shift in combat seems to be from the back-breaking physical tasks of traditional American ground forces (and their huge inefficiencies) to the light-and-nimble or technology-assisted guerrila tactics. In that sense, women again may find themselves well-suited for the newly emerging combat positions, just as they have served in many successful guerrila and rebel armies such as in the Middle-East, Horn of Africa and south-eastern Asia.

Australia has already announced they will allow women to serve in ground combat units in Iraq, but they bring up another set of reasons:

[Veterans’ Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly said] “This gives women a better career path, it improves our capability, and makes defence and army a much more attractive career option, particularly for women.”

In other words:

[defence spokesman] Mr McClelland said the real reason the government supported the army’s submission to allow women to serve in combat support units was because the Australian Defence Force (ADF) had failed to reach its target number of recruits for the past six years.

“Under this government’s watch a serious economic problem has become a serious national security problem,” he said.

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