Women in the front line


Pic from News.com.au

Mate, says my mate Jack, can you imagine having women in our bunkers? Don’t put the hexy stove there – it should go in the corner here and for God’s sake clean up your mess…tidy up your spent rounds…No! try the hexy stove in the other corner….God you stink – at least try and keep yourself clean..and…and Jack, of course is joking, but Combet isn’t as he pushes the subject and I can only begin to imagine those behind him pushing as well. Women libbers, gender equality at any price ideologues and other assorted left wing ‘divorced from reality’ nutters. I wrote on this very subject four years ago. Obviously I had more time on my hands then but the comments are an interesting overview of the debate. The subject is cyclic, comes up every few years and so is service in Infantry. The Roman Centurion carried similar weights to what I carried in Vietnam and the soldiers in Afghanistan, and I’ve met a lot recently, are still struggling with a 100 lb plus pack. If their mate is wounded they then have to carry him and his gear in a ‘fireman’s carry’ as well for short distances so treble that for short bursts. But then it isn’t all physical, although that fact alone would stop most women successfully finishing infantry and special ops courses. It’s the whole physcological and social considerations that make me wary. Bob Baldwin who is Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Personnel and the Assisting Shadow Minister for Defence said psychological aspects of battle made the frontline unsuitable for women.
“The coalition believes in the equality of opportunity for women in the defence force,” he told reporters today. “The coalition, however, doesn’t agree with the placement of women into forces such as the SAS, clearance divers, commandos or frontline combat engineers.”
Fair enough too! But Labor MP Yvette D’Ath said the issue of serving on the frontline should be “irrespective” of gender.
“I’m very strong on equality and basis on who can do the job,” she told reporters. “If you can pass the course, you can meet all the criteria, you should be allowed to perform that job irrespective of what that job is.”
Which totally ignores the social and physcological aspects of women in combat. My local Priest nails it in letters to The Australian today;
AS well as being dangerous and impractical in many cases, the push to put women on the front lines would erode something valuable in our civilised society. It would diminish the dignity and special status of women as life-givers and nurturers (“Now is the time for our women as well”, Editorial, 10/9). Women wielding machine-guns and bayonets as the aggressors in war seems to defy the natural law. While I’m all for equal pay and equal opportunities in education and the professions, sending women to the front lines in the name of equality diminishes rather than enhances their status. While nobody is forcing them to go now, it would be a different matter in the event of conscription or a ballot if we faced a major war. Young women and the hard-boiled feminists who claim to have their interests at heart in supporting this move should consider such implications carefully. Father Tim Norris St Kevin’s Parish, Geebung, Qld
In Vietnam I did a forty day patrol; that is forty days without stopping in a safe base like Nui Dat. Think about that – in the dry season there was insufficient water to wash so no showers, no body wash for forty days!. Gave up on wearing socks and jocks (can’t carry or resupply) and a bout of dysentery didn’t help. Defecating and urinating publicly without any privacy. Blood and bits of enemy flesh on my filthy uniform, skin diseased and abraded from thorns and the prickly heat making every step painful. And then there’s the enemy. Do you want your daughter there? I don’t and Yvette D’Ath would have vomited if she ever got downwind of me. You see, us conservative chaps think women and kids need protecting and they are harder to protect when they’re close by and how the hell are they going to nurture the next generation if they’re in the combat zone. As Father Tim says;
…sending women to the front lines in the name of equality diminishes rather than enhances their status.
I’m happy for girls to do most things military but I want them protected from the filth, terror and mind boggling physical and physcological aspects of infantry service. I’ve been there but I see no combat infantry service in the CVs of people advocating that women should be able to join me. Keep the home fires burning sweetheart and hopefully I’ll be back soon.


  • Kev

    Surely this should be about individual physical capacity – not gender. If the individual is physically up to the task – OK. A very few exceptional women would be able to meet the physical demands of infantry service – most would not. As for the psychological/social aspects – I’d venture to suggest that there are a few males who are unsuitable in these areas, and they hopefully get weeded out before operational duty.

    The mining industry recruits women because they are easier on the expensive machinery – in other words it’s about pragmatism, not gender politics. It should be the same with the military.

    The progressives/conservatives will line up on each side of this debate, and little light will be shed. Maybe we should be looking at the reasons behind this perennial failure to meet recruitment goals. It’s hardly a new problem.

    How about creating an elite battalion open to both male and female soldiers, demanding a very high level of physical and mental capacity for entry, and providing the best training and conditions that we can afford? Set it up and research its growth and development. At the end of five/seven years, the performance and morale of this unit could be analysed and conclusions made. I doubt that there’d be a rush of applicants from women – but hopefully the small number that made it in would be made of the right stuff. The experiment would need to be managed by the unit – not the DD.

    I believe the Kiwis lifted gender restrictions in 2001. What has come of this?

    The Israelis have their own mixed gender battalion (the Caracals) which saw action most recently in Gaza. An analysis of their performance would be interesting. See this video –

    By the look of the video they yell and leap about a great deal. I’m not sure what effect this has on their battle readiness.

    As for the imagined scenario of women participating in some of the longer operations I remember in SVN, I can’t really get my head around it. I doubt that it would have lifted personal hygiene standards much. There was only so much you could do with limited water, in the dry. My recollection is that the only part of my anatomy that I was fastidious about was my feet. Dry-shaving – never much fun – wouldn’t have been a problem for the sheilas, I suppose.

  • Couldn’t agree more Kev, this line “Do you want your daughter there? I don’t and Yvette D’Ath would have vomited if she ever got downwind of me.” is Gold. Kev, I don’t reckon half the metrosexual, hair straightening, fashion victim males of today could cope with those conditions, let alone women.

  • Back when I was a cut-lunch commando, about 5% of our regiment was female. All of them were from what I would term the rougher end of the shiela spectrum to start with. I doubt the Paris Hilton types will ever want to risk breaking a finger nail in the service of their country. That’s not to say they were pogs – a few were real lookers, but the most important thing is that they had the right mental state for serving in the backend of an infantry regiment. God, they were tough, and much fitter than I was.

    But out of all of them, only one was really keen on the idea of sticking a bayonet into someone else. I shared a hootchie with her on a few weekend exercises, and she was a real trouper. She didn’t mind the pong, and one quickly got used to doing a crap in front of her. If you took too long at the shit pit, she’d hurry you along by commenting on the state of your equipment. Life in the infantry is pretty rough, and we all had to make big adjustments from civilian life when putting on the green hat. Coping with a woman in your gun pit is just another adjustment.

    However, in all my years of swanning around the shrubbery in my spare time with various regiments, she is the only one that had what I felt was the necessary “spunk” (for want of a better term) to serve at the really sharp end. The rest enjoyed being in an infantry regiment, but were pretty happy being a bit back from the sharp end serving as medics, radio operators, truckies and so on. They were far and away the best on the radio in HQ, and like the mining industry, they took much better care of the trucks than the blokes. I see this whole push as a nod to political correctness – the right words are being spoken, but in the end, there are a pretty limited number of women who will want to take up the offer. It’s a Claytons offer.

    Interestingly enough, what with mines and IEDs and so on littering the modern battlefield, driving a vehicle is probably one of the most dangerous jobs these days. A woman driving a vehicle is already sharing all the risks of the front line soldiers.

    All that said, I am with the padre.

  • Given the instinctive urge to protect females, I can see potential for a lot more casualties in a mixed Bn.

    Its not all about physical capability, its about the impact on the effectiveness of the force as a whole.

  • See these pics for a peek at the role of women in the British Army during operations in Afghanistan. They might not be riflemen, but I doubt a casual observer would think them anything else:



    The full story, amongst others, on Michael Yon’s site make gloomy reading about the daily grind for Brit infantry.

    They seem to be chronically short of everything in the field.

    If they need ‘it’, they don’t seem to have ‘it’ from choppers to mine protected vehicles.


    Trapped in small patrol bases, they are constantly under observation and fire.

    It must be a long tour of duty.

  • Women in uniform, 2009 Chinese style, or, “There’s no business like show business”.

    Given the perpetuals rants from the thin-lipped fellow travelers of the PRC, this is a hoot:



    “September 25, 2009: China has hired professional female models to march in a parade. This was seen as very important for the survival of the communist government. The October 2nd parade in China, to celebrate 60 years of communist rule, wants to make China, and its government, look good. To that end, the parade organizers are having contingents, from all the military organizations in China, march past the high def TV cameras. Being a communist police state, there are lots of uniformed groups. Many have female components. The parade organizers particularly wanted to insure that the women in uniform looked good. Not just military good, but good. When they discovered that the female contingent from the People’s Militia did not measure up, they proceeded to hire models, from as far away as Singapore, to pretty-up the women’s contingent of the People’s Militia. To avoid criticism for doing something similar for the Summer Olympics ceremonies, the parade organizers let the media know that there would be ringers marching with the People’s Militia.”

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