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Women In Uniform

  • December 28th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

women-services-aust-2.jpgThe Australian government announced this year (27.9.11) that women in the armed forces will be allowed to serve in any frontline combat roles by 2016.

While women are prominent in many roles already, as senior officers, crew members on warships, air force pilots, and soldiers in Afghanistan, the move excited debate over security and safety issues for all troops, with two sexes in the ranks.


Leading contributors in the argument were female service personnel, past and present, who pointed out that access to the limited number of combat roles still off-limits to women, depended on very hard standards.

If anybody can get through that readiness test, male or female, they are tough enough to go.

Already, in 2008, the government had been telling the services to remove obstacles to female participation in the Defence workforce.

women-services-aust-4.jpgBased on figures from 2006, women made up just 13.3% of permanent forces, and 15.6% of the Reserves, against general participation in the Australian workforce of 45%.

There has been little change since; current figures, from November 2011, are 13.8% in the regular forces and 15.5% in reserves.

Most debate about engagement of women focuses on combat roles in the Army, the military branch with the lowest female recruitment.

Just 9.95% of the 29310 members of the regular army are women, and 13.17% of the 29063 in the Army Reserve.

Figures for the other services:

women-services-aust-1.jpgNavy: Permanent, 18.5% of 13963 total; Reserve, 18.5% of 8970. Air Force: Permanent, 17% of 14435; reserve, 19.5% of 9459.

Altogether Australia has 7965 permanent female service personnel, and 7335 in the reserves.

At the younger end, the school-age Cadets; there are 19314 boys in uniform and 4226 girls, just under 18% – showing about the same level of zeal for military life as their big sisters.

(Updated figures courtesy ADF).


women-pilots-europe.jpgEven before the decision to open all roles to women Australia was classed with a limited number of mainly Western countries that had admitted women to active service positions.

Those also included New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Picture: American fighter pilots.


Israel is a special and famous case with long-standing female commitments.

israel-soldiers-women.jpgThe Israel Defence Forces website currently features a statement by a General Officer, that 92% of IDF positions are open to women, with heavy reliance on them especially in the reserves:

israel-pilots-woemn.jpg“The number of women serving as IDF reservists is eight times as large in comparison to ten years ago … The IDF is the nation’s army and follows ethical values of equality and acceptance.

“Today, almost every single position in the IDF is open for female soldiers including combat, field instruction, intelligence and more. Upon enlisting to the IDF girls are offered combat positions in a variety of units including the Artillery Corps, Field Intelligence Corps, Home Front Command Search and Rescue, and several infantry positions. The Karakal infantry battalion was created to enable female IDF soldiers to serve in a combat position alongside males. The IDF commando K9 unit, Oketz, also drafts females as elite combat soldiers.”

Pictures: Israeli infantry group, and pilots.


From the Queen-General Boadecia in the First Century onward, women warriors have achieved legendary status.

roza_shanina.jpgIn desperate days the Soviet Union, in its Great Patriotic War, called on all citizens to fill all roles.

Roza Shanina (picture) became a decorated hero; a sniper, she survived bitter fighting for a little over one year, and was killed in action a few weeks before her 21st birthday in 1945.


Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai, “Eight times as many women serve as reservists”, (radio interview transcript), Israel Defence Forces official website, 27.12.11., (28.12.11).

Parliament of Australia – Parliamentary Library,  “Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group – Women in the armed forces: the role of women in the Australian Defence Force”, Canberra, 2000., (28.11.11).

Wikipedia, SF, “Women in the Australian Military”., (28.12.11).

Pictures  Australian Defence Force, IDF, Wikipedia