“No man with gumption wants a woman to fight his nation’s battles.” – U.S. General William Westmoreland, 1979

Note: This role will be opened to women entering the Army starting January, 2016. These are words that most Australian special-forces operators never wanted to read, nor thought they would ever have to. The Australian Government’s decision to lift gender restrictions within the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) combat roles now means that women are eligible to pursue employment opportunities within Australia’s Special Operations Command (SOCOMD).

Earlier suggestions indicated that special forces were going to be exempt from the proposed changes. However, this has proven to be inaccurate, with the 2nd Commando Regiment and Special Air Service Regiment now accepting women candidates to try out for a spot in both units.

The removal of gender restrictions gained momentum in 2011 after Defence personnel were embroiled in a number of high-profile scandals. The scandals and allegations involved the sexual humiliation and denigration of both male and female ADF employees across all three services. A culture of misogyny has said to be a pervading factor throughout the entire ADF and has been assessed as creating an environment that is widely difficult for women to progress in their military careers. These cases have been regarded by some as systematic cultural problems throughout Defence, which have also extended beyond women to include individuals of different ethnic and social backgrounds.

The opening of combat roles to women has seen Australia follow a number of other nations in its pursuit of equitable military career opportunities for both males and females. Even though it is still in its implementation phase, the mere discussion of mixed gender teams has been an extremely compelling, precarious, and, at times, downright dangerous topic to mention around teammates.

The sensitivities surrounding this issue are without precedent. The Australian Army was established shortly after Federation in 1901 and has fought in a number of major wars, including: the Second Boer War (1899-1902), First World War (1914-1918), Second World War (1939-1945), Korean War (1950-1953), Malayan Emergency (1950-1960), Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation (1962-1966), Vietnam War (1962-1973), the war in Afghanistan (2001-2013), and the war in Iraq (2003-2009).

In addition, the Australian Army has also responded to a number of humanitarian crises and peacekeeping operations, the former including Aceh Province in Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the latter including East Timor, Bougainville, the Sinai, and the Solomon Islands. Never in the short but busy history of the Australian Army have women been granted the opportunity to deploy in a combat role—until now.

Women Now Eligible to Join Australia’s Special Operations Command


On the 11 April, 2011, Australia’s Minister for Defence announced that the Department of Defence was fast-tracking its plan to remove gender restrictions on ADF combat role employment categories. The ADF’s combat role employment categories are broken down into service branches, with the Navy’s categories being clearance divers and mine warfare, and clearance-diving officers; the Air Force’s categories being airfield-defence guards and ground-defence officers; and the Army’s categories being Infantry Corps, Armoured Corps, some artillery roles, the Explosive-Ordnance Disposal Squadron, and combat-engineer squadrons. On the 27 September, 2014, this announcement was formally endorsed by the Australian Government and a five-year implementation plan was introduced which laid out the key milestones and deliverables of the project.