We’ve done several pieces on women in Special Ops and it’s obviously still a hotbed for debate. I like that the SOFREP community can hold a healthy debate and look at things objectively (for the most part).
In the past we’ve seen military capabilities come and go and get re-invented quite a few times (e.g. aerial combat and sniping to name two). The same can be said using women in combat throughout history.
I disagree with lowering standards or making exceptions for any race or sex in the Special Operations. In the beginning, let everyone in and keep the standards the same and only over time develop modified physical standards for females since their anatomy is clearly different. It’s the mental game that matters anyway. This will prevent male counterparts from crying Bull Shit and also gives females a sense of pride for having made it with the same set of standards. Cram them through and you do nobody any favors except maybe top ranking officials and officers that are more concerned with a too often seen non-exemplary punching of their tickets. And it creates all sorts of hidden and expensive consequences, low morale being a big one for both men and women.
I agree that having women integrated into male combat units will have its problems and ass grabbing is just the beginning. We should look to other Defense forces like the Israelis for positive examples of integration.
It’s important for the purposes of this debate (on women in combat units) to point out that women have had their rightful place as warriors throughout the history of warfare.
Here is snap shot of five women I list as an example, some famous and some not so famous.
Women in Combat
1. Joan of Arc
A peasant girl born in what is now eastern France, who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured by the Burgundians, transferred to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais for charges of “insubordination and heterodoxy,”and burned at the stake as a heretic when she was only 19.
2. Nandi Zulu Warrior Princess
A Zulu princess and the mother of famed African Warrior Shaka-Zulu was a warrior princess who fought slave-traders in 19th century Africa and raised her son to be a leader and a warrior. In fact, when Shaka became King, he established an all-female regiment in her memory.
3. Lyudmila Pavlichenko an Accomplished Sniper in Russia’s Red Army
Pavlichenko was among the first round of volunteers at the recruiting office, where she requested to join the infantry and subsequently she was assigned to the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division. Pavlichenko had the option to become a nurse but refused; “I joined the army when woman were not yet accepted.” There she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army, of whom about 500 ultimately survived the war. As a sniper, she made her first two kills near Belyayevka, using a Tokarev SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle with 3.5 telescopic sight.
4. Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney
Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.
The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.
Except her own plane. So that was the plan.
Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.
“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
5. Corporal Niva Hazon of the IDF
When corporal Niva Hazon climbs on the turret of the MERKAVA 4 tank she cannot hide her excitement. “I have not been on a tank for a month now,” she disclosed, “most of the communication instruction is carried out in the classroom. We have special simulators on which we can demonstrate the tank’s communication system. Only after extensive practice in the classroom we actually go in the tank.” After she easily leaps into the tank, Niva gives us a comprehensive explanation about the communications equipment. “We were taught every possible detail about this equipment. This way we earn the respect of the trainees, and motivates them to learn. The instructor is an important part of producing a combatant.”
I would suspect that these ladies would most not approve of lowering standards for women in the U.S. Army Rangers and I would love to see a few of them stare down the bureaucrats and ticket punchers that are forcing a square peg through a round hole and hear them ask “WTF over?”
This article previously published by SOFREP 05.24.2012