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US law change for female combat troops.

(70 Posts)
CardiffUniversityNetballTeam Thu 24-Jan-13 18:32:08


What are people's thoughts on this?

How do MNers feel about women in frontline combat?

It's not something I would want to do but I don't see why women who want to try should be stopped.

LtEveDallas Sat 26-Jan-13 18:33:41

I tell you, you've never smelled the like until you've greeted the boys home after 2 weeks in an OP...oh dear God, it's like something died inside their trousers (another reason I wouldn't want my head between their legs) grin. It takes a special kind of madman to want to be a Recce Soldier.

mathanxiety Sat 26-Jan-13 18:09:40

I have to say it wouldn't be my cup of tea and you would find me as far from the front as possible, and especially as far from tanks as I could arrange.

LtEveDallas Sat 26-Jan-13 18:08:13

Oh I'm sure there are Math, and for that reason they'll join another Corps/Regt where that is not required, much as the women do. Tankies are their own special breed grin

mathanxiety Sat 26-Jan-13 17:55:57

I am sure there are men who find the experience of having someone's penis rubbing up against their head for hours at a stretch objectionable yet for the sake of the job or the pay or just being good soldiers they get on with it. There are women who find the experience of pregnancy, getting up in the night to feed babies, etc., objectionable but get on with it because they are able to put individual feelings or pain or downright misery aside.

LtEveDallas Sat 26-Jan-13 17:54:36

My only experience with the NL was with a CV90 troop, which isn't 'true' Armour, more like our Mech Inf. I'm not sure what other AFVs they have, but the CV90 can take 10 or 12, so are much bigger. Our Scimitar or Sabre only have room for 4.

The guys (and girls) I met in Bosnia that worked out of these vehicles never had a single female in a troop, always 2 or more, which makes more sense in a troop of 10 (or 12, I can't remember). I only ever saw them parked up running a Rebro and remember that they had 'penthouses' rigged for sleeping/living much the same as our R Signals troops do in their smaller 432s.

I don't know how it worked in Iraq/Afghan though, I'd be interested to find out.

meditrina Sat 26-Jan-13 17:44:09

Scandewegians have female tankies, don't they? How do they get on?

I suppose an all female tank crew could work. Some advantages too - smaller frame so more elbow room inside?

LtEveDallas Sat 26-Jan-13 17:39:25

I agree that there will be women that could overcome the physical barriers. I have known a few that I believe could, although I have to say these women are mainly foreign and commonwealth soldiers whose build tends to be larger and stronger in most cases. Unfortunately many western women still starve themselves to get the 'ideal' figure and there aren't many size 8's that would have the strength. If we could get away from that mindset it would help.

My concerns fall mainly with Armoured and Recce Regiments I suppose. They are my first love, so understandable.

Until you have been inside a tank (and I'm using that term as a catch all as its easier - there are only two 'true' tanks left in service, but 8 other AFVs) it's hard to understand just how hard it is. The spaces are tiny. When I said earlier about sitting with your head against a penis I wasn't exaggerating - its how they are made. I really don't think that would be considered acceptable, well not in my lifetime, and the MOD couldn't afford to change them.

The Army used to be horribly sexist. When I first joined it was a nightmare, differnt pay scales included but in the last 20 years it has come on leaps and bounds. Who knows what the next 20 years will bring?

mathanxiety Sat 26-Jan-13 17:32:45

Women made huge inroads into industry during WW2 in the UK and USA, despite factory jobs being considered unsuitable for various spurious reasons until then.

Again, not so in the USSR where women and men worked in factories and on farms.

Women have been pioneers in space from the start, suggesting that when you start with a blank slate or a new or revolutionary situation women are acceptable alongside men but it is only when you have a longer established tradition there are difficulties.

mathanxiety Sat 26-Jan-13 17:19:00

LtEve -- I don't think there are any physical conditions that couldn't be overcome. Speaking here as someone who has never been in any armed force, but look around at other occupations where women have made inroads and you will see that adaptations have been introduced to make this possible.

I recall a report showing women being trained for union-rate jobs traditionally for men only, this assumption being based on issues of strength, endurance, job conditions -- construction steelwork, construction in general, electrical tech jobs requiring women to climb poles in all weather carrying heavy equipment. Upper body strength can be developed enough to enable women to get the job done.

Similarly, women and men too might be able to get over reluctance to share small spaces and all bodily functions with members of the opposite sex.

Arguments were made against gays serving that were similar to the women in tight spaces argument. Ditto in the US wrt black soldiers and gays on submarines. One of my grandfathers was an Irish Catholic officer in the Indian army and found all sorts of little unofficial clubs were closed to him and different rules were applied to those not in those little clubs.

Again, I don't have experience, but I have a nagging suspicion that many of the objections are spurious.

SaskiaRembrandtVampireHunter Sat 26-Jan-13 16:37:37

Not sure if this has been mentioned - still reading the thread - but further to the point Kim and Mathanxiety made about Russian women fighting in WW2, there were also the women who served behind enemy lines as SOE agents.

LtEveDallas Sat 26-Jan-13 16:20:42

Please don't be obtuse. It demeans you.

Just because you, or others like you wouldnt want to shit in a plastic bag on the front line does not mean all women are that fragile

No, in an Armoured Fighting Vehicle, locked down for days, with 3 men no more than 2 foot away at all times. That does NOT make me fragile.

You are arguing without experience. It is easy for someone who has not been on the front line to say 'Oh we should all go' - the reality is much different. You choose not to answer me, so I can only assume you have NO Armoured experience, you do not know what the vehicles are like and how a female crew member would make things harder - for her as well.

You have no experience of the front line. You did not go to Iraq or Afghanistan. I doubt you even served in Bosnia or Kosovo. You have not been the only female in an 8 man 2 vehicle outpost for weeks on end and you have not sat in complete darkness in a bunker waiting for the sirens to sound the all clear wondering if your boys are safe.

I have. My experience leads me to ascertain that the MOD have got the balance right. In my job I am equal to men, I am treated as an equal, I am paid as an equal. My job, serving and supporting the front line is an important one that I undertake with pride. I do not need to be capbadged Infantry or RAC or prove my equality - I do that every day.

I'm currently working with 3 female Engineers trained in Bomb Disposal. Until 1992 they were not allowed to do that job. The arguments against were not valid, were not strong enough and the job was opened up. The arguments against female Infanteers and Tankies are still valid and so the jobs remain closed. Until the battlefield changes, the concerns remain.

MrsClown1 Sat 26-Jan-13 11:51:29

hence my point, it was used as a reiteration of women's inequality.

I am so glad my superiors (even the men) supported me in my fight for equality. I accept I didnt get it but I was supported by my sgts, flying officers, squadron leaders. I did win some small battles though. Im so glad you werent there!

What strength must it have taken to give birth on the front line! Its not something I would fancy. Just because you, or others like you wouldnt want to shit in a plastic bag on the front line does not mean all women are that fragile. The human condition is so complicated we just have to accept differences, even within genders. I knew a lot of men in the RAF who I would not have liked to have relied on if I were on the front line, just as there were many women I would not have wanted to rely on. However, there were many men and women I would have. You really cannot put people into boxes - we are all different. Some people, like you cant hence we dont seem to move on that much.

LtEveDallas Sat 26-Jan-13 09:03:02

Umm MrsClown I'm almost 22 year into a 24 year career - 15 of which was spent with front line troops. I said much earlier on that some women could do it, but in my experience they are very few and far between.

I'm very interested now though, as you were RAF what occasion did you find yourself in an AFV? That's highly unusual - even more so in 1977 when all females were non-combatant (hence the red teardrop) and weren't allowed front line (where the AFVs were). I'd be fascinated to know.

MrsClown1 Sat 26-Jan-13 08:56:35

It didnt float my boat, it was a necessity LTEVE that is probably why it was a good job you didnt join up then. Im just trying to make the point, everyone is different - different strokes for different folks. Sadly you dont accept that there are women who could do it as well as women who couldnt. Exactly the same as not all men could be in the forces and cope with that sort of life.

Dragon - you talk such sense.

Dragonwoman Sat 26-Jan-13 00:44:42

Yes I realise women already go on the front line, but they can't be infantry etc. I still think the 'poster girl' in your example should have the right to serve in the role of her choosing, even if most of her sex cannot physically manage. For what it's worth I'm not sure alot of the men I know would manage physically either!

But individuals do vary - I have a female friend who puts on muscle remarkably easily with exercise to the extent of having to limit certain sports because she doesn't want to appear too 'manly'. She is very strong and would be more so if she chose to weight train.

I know women in general are more prone to MSDs under strenuous conditions. This should still be recognized to guard against blanket fitness polices to cover both sexes in general.

malinois Fri 25-Jan-13 17:52:09

The reality is that women are deployed in frontline combat units - in the US, UK and many other western forces. It's just that they are banned from certain roles - primarily infantry.

There are plenty of women medics, sigs, engineers, logistics and intelligence officers directly attached to combat units.

If an infantry patrol go out with female medics, sigs and i-corp, then it's a nonsense to say those women aren't on the frontline.

We even have women in the special forces (SRR).

here is what 'non-combatant' women in UK forces look like.... (Jo Dyer - killed while on patrol in Basra RIP)

LtEveDallas Fri 25-Jan-13 17:31:42

No one is suggesting that women are forced into front line units - just that women are not barred from certain units if they choose to apply

It's not units though Dragonwoman, it's capbadges. A female can be assigned to any unit, including Special Forces, RM, Paras etc, but they can't be SAS, RM, Infantry etc.

At the end of my 24 years Service I will have spent 15 years serving with Front Line forces but have never been Front Line myself. I do a job in support of them, but am not expected to do the same training, fitness etc as them. I can fire my personal weapon just as well (and sometimes better!) and have the same knowledge of battle rhythms for example, but would never be expected to lead the battle.

I am reasonably fit but even at the height of my career would not have been able to complete (for eg) an 8 mile forced march carrying 25kg plus Rifle & Helmet, to be completed in less than 1hr 50 minutes and this is the bare minimum that is expected - it's just a test. On Ops that weight could double. Imagine the stress placed on the body.

My trade means that I have to go as far, and in the same time, but carrying less weight. It is the same for men in my trade.

One of the Regts I was at tried to insist that all personnel completed the same training tests. It was a disaster. Within months all the women were broken and resentful, some requiring treatment to this day. I firmly believe, based on my own experience, that CO's with women 'capbadged' to their Regt will expect all the women attached to that Regt to do the same as her. She would become the poster child that the rest of the women should aspire to, and when they aren't able to do so they will then be unfairly judged against her.

Dragonwoman Fri 25-Jan-13 16:38:52

No one is suggesting that women are forced into front line units - just that women are not barred from certain units if they choose to apply.

I am also not suggesting that a woman should be selected for a unit if she isn't physically capable. I agree a quota system would be unworkable and expect that women with the physical & mental resilience necessary would be rare. I know I couldn't achieve the strength level required if I trained all day, every day. (I am too old now anyway).

But I don't think we should have discrimination on grounds of sex enshired in law in any area - discrimination between individuals on grounds of ability is acceptable, just as in any other job.

BTW wouldn't most women going into active duty stop their periods using the implant or similar? I don't even entertain the idea of a period when away on holiday!

LtEveDallas Fri 25-Jan-13 15:02:45

Oh and as you were in the RAF, no offense but I'd suggest your knowledge of Scimitar/Sparten/Striker/CH/CR is rather limited in that respect.

LtEveDallas Fri 25-Jan-13 15:00:31

You say 'same old same old' like that alone makes it not a valid arguement? Vehicles haven't changed that much since 1977, so neither have the concerns.

Personally I find the thought of defecating into a bag in front of 3 men no more than 2 ft away humiliating and horrifying. Whatever floats your boat I suppose.

MrsClown Fri 25-Jan-13 14:56:02

The kit not being designed for women is the same old same old I used to get, along with the toilet situation. How can we have moved on so little over the years? By the way, as I was in the forces I didnt mind peeing in bottles etc when on exercises - it was part of the 'fun'. Oh and the old period argument has been brought up again and again and again.

Of course there are women who wouldnt be able to stand it, there are also plenty of men who wouldnt.

deleted203 Fri 25-Jan-13 14:08:26

Thank you, LtEve. That is demonstrating admirably the point I was trying to make, with great examples. I absolutely agree that women should have equal rights to careers but was trying to say that there are certain situations where your gender DOES actually impact on you. The Infantry is one of them, and certainly the Tank Corps.

LtEveDallas Fri 25-Jan-13 14:02:07

I think there is a lot more to it than "just" physical fitness/strength and the "bonding" issue.

sweeping generalisations alert based on own personal experience

Strength is a major one - the average Infantry Soldier carries around 35Kg of issued eqpt into battle, that's not including helmet, weapon, body armour and the personal items he finds useful. He could be carrying 50 Kgs and be expected to fight - that's a whole person! I am surrounded by soldiers and there are many males who struggle, and very few women (myself included) that would cope with that.

The main (most common) weapon for an infanteer is the Rifle 5.56, weighing about 4Kg, but different members of the same section carry different weapons - some a lot heavier - and the ammunition to go along with it. Plus the signaller would have the radio, the section medic the medical supplies and so on.

Women are also barred from the Armoured Corps, same issues, but with the added problem of Tanks. The driver of our most commonly used Armd Veh sits with his head in between the gunners legs - and its a tight fit. I don't know many women that would be willing to have their cheeks pressed against some blokes penis for hours on end - or days on end. Tanks go into 'lockdown' whereby no-one is allowed in or out, sometimes for days. The guys pee into plastic bottles and shite in bags - again, not many women I know would be comfortable with that - and what about periods - OK, you could fill yourself with hormones to make sure they didn't come - but should you have to?

Kit - "Webbing" is not designed well for women. It cuts directly across your breasts and sits on your hips. It's bad enough wearing it on exercise for a couple of weeks when you have plenty of time 'off' where you dont have to wear it - not going to happen in a war scenario.

Personally I think the British Army has the balance right. Women can go (and do go) to Front Line units and use their skills to their best advantage. Those that can, do. Those that can't, don't - and crucially aren't forced to do so. If the rules changed I believe less women would join or stay in the Army, not more.

MrsClown Fri 25-Jan-13 12:37:08

I was in the RAF. I joined in 1977 (I am very old!!!!).

The fact that women were not allowed on the front lines was often used to reiterate our inequality in the services. The men were paid more money than me as they called it the X Factor side of pay. I married a guy who was also in the RAF. I was incredibly sporty and was in quite a few teams. I worked out regularly and did exercises with the RAF boxing team to keep fit, as did many of my female colleagues. My ex husband totally agreed that I was much fitter and stronger than he has his physical fitness was much lower than mine.

I hope that one day the British Government will see the same sense as the US.

Dragon - great point re the bond between fellow soldiers whether they be male or female. That is so true. If things change now in 50 years some of the comments on here would be laughed at. Women can make their own decision about whether they want to join the services and fight in wars, just as men have been doing for years.

If we are saying that women being in combat risk may risk the lives of men then read what Violet Szabo did for the men she was fighting with during WW2. There were male survivors who were grateful to have Violet fighting their corner, literally. IMHO it is like disregarding what women like her (there were many others) did during the war. My grandma used to say to me 'Dont let them be written out of history, remember them as well as the men'.

I may not have a degree in the Military. Im not from an RAF family - I was actually in it. I digress, but it really used to annoy me when the wives and families of the men used to talk like they were a servicewoman!

mathanxiety Fri 25-Jan-13 04:27:19

Very ironic that an army would be concerned about female soldiers being raped by enemy forces in light of the horrible rape numbers far from the noise of battle, with perpetrators being officers and comrades.
Or maybe it isn't ironic and the fear is that the property of one army would fall into the hands of another?

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