There are more than 10,000 women currently serving in the Canadian Forces (CF). In 1989, they were allowed to join the combat trades but, up to this day, only 2.4% of the combat related positions are occupied by them.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am strongly in favor of having women in the CF in all the support trades. It is also their right to serve their country, and they have been doing it well for quite a long time now. But as an ex-infantryman, with 14 years of experience in a light infantry battalion, I do not think they have their place in the field as combat troops. At least, not in the infantry. That being said, we have to agree that there are males who shouldn’t be allowed either.
The problem with the Canadian Forces is that a few years ago we were having some serious issues with enlistments. So to make their annual ‘’quotas,’’ the brass decided to only make the recruits pass their PT test after they were enlisted. Should they not pass it, they would be placed in a platoon called the Warrior platoon for a few weeks to prepare them to be able to pass the required PT test, which is probably the easiest test in the world. Up until recently, women serving in the combat trades would have to do the same PT test as clerks, supply technicians, etc. That meant 9 push-ups and 19 sit-ups. How can you be ready to ruck up 75-100 lbs of gear, food and water when you have such low PT requirements?
The Canadian forces now have a new PT test that requires both sexes to perform the exact same tasks, which could eventually change the current physical situations of the females in combat trades. But we’re not there yet, and not even close.
It is a fact that females are not as physically strong as the males. Being in a light infantry battalion means that you have to carry all your combat loads everywhere, and during long period of times. Too many times I have seen guys, including myself here, ending up rucking their gear and some of the females’, as well, because they weren’t able to keep up. If it would be one of the boys who couldn’t keep up, he would be in a world of s***, but we tend to be more soft on the females. It is human nature for males to protect the females instead of pushing them harder to make sure they can keep up.
Of course, there are exceptions. I have seen a few females kicking some serious asses, but they do not represent the majority of the females in the infantry. I remember once while being on an FTX up north, it was about -40 Celsius and we had an 8 km walk with full gear and toboggans. We had one female in our platoon and she had to be evacuated by chopper because she couldn’t finish the hump and began to cry because she wasn’t able to continue anymore. We waited for the chopper for about 50 minutes and most of us were freezing our asses off. I am not talking about an injury-related extraction here but about some girl who decided it was enough. The company commander decided to extract the poor girl instead of kicking her ass to continue like he would’ve with any other guys.
Is that fair to treat the males and females differently? Not really. It is not discrimination to ensure that our combat troops are able to perform up to the standard, while not putting everyone else in jeopardy because of their lack of physical fitness. It can also become a real liability during combat operations overseas. Would they be able to carry a wounded soldier to security, or even do some hand-to-hand combat against an enemy? Most of them won’t. But we can easily include males who aren’t physically fit to do the job and would be security issues as well.
Another thing people tend to forget about are hygiene issues. It happened a few times where we’d have a female in our platoon who would be on her period while we were in the field for a week. We would normally walk 12-14 km in a day non-stop, setup our patrol base and then go on recce patrols or work on perimeter security. I remember having to stop so the females could swap their tampons because they were soaked with blood and that didn’t take 30 seconds. Taking a piss is another example, especially during winter time where temperature can easily drop to -30 Celsius. While we are on the move, it is quite time-consuming. There are tools available for them to be able to pee standing up like males, but I’ve rarely seen one using them and they end up taking a lot more time.
Are they accepted, and do they integrate into their platoons well? Since we are used to having them around, we do accept them, but they don’t always fully integrate into the brotherhood a platoon creates. I know it sounds weird, but I think males are like that regarding females. We will accept carrying their equipment when they can’t carry it anymore without really bitching about it, but we will never really agree with it. Mission first, I guess.
It is also hard to integrate females because of the way infantrymen act. We are always talking about sex, porn, girls and we get uncomfortable doing it when there are females around. Everyone who has been deployed knows how we get when we’ve been 4-5 months away from home. But if a female starts acting like us, we tend to not accept it and it creates a lot of tension.
My last point is about sexuality. Having girls in your platoons during a combat deployment can become a real problem, especially with the no fraternization rules. Human nature makes us ‘’sex hungry,’’ and even more while we are overseas. Being in a COP or a FOB with girls in your platoon could possibly result in some sexual-related problems. Of course, there will be females on FOBs, but being not as close to them as if they were in your platoons reduces the chance of having some fraternization issues.
In short, with the physical limitations, hygiene and the possible sexuality issues, I do not think that women should be allowed in the infantry. Even though they have been allowed since 1989, I would say that most of the Canadian infantryman I know are strongly against it. For some reason we find it very hard to see them struggle in the field and we are putting ourselves even more on the line for their safety and their well-being. There are other ways for them to serve their country and I will always support them in that but not in combat trades.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Sisters in Arms)