By Catherine Ross The New York Times
Maybe I should’ve been a soldier in Israel’s army. As of 10 years ago, that country’s women have been allowed to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (I.D.F.) in any capacity that male soldiers serve, including combat units. They can serve in the infantry or mechanized units, or any other combat occupation. They make up a third of the I.D.F., and are treated as equals with males. This CNN segment features footage of Israeli female soldiers who can and do serve in any capacity.
Watching that video got me fired up. It was a real eye opener for me. These women are living proof that female soldiers can perform all of the same duties that male soldiers perform. These women don’t have to go around proving themselves.
Meanwhile, back here in the United States, women in the military are still seen as less capable and something of a curiosity. The fact that we are so grossly outnumbered — only 14 percent of soldiers in the Army are women — automatically makes us a curiosity. Until I saw that video about the I.D.F., I thought that women were pretty well integrated in our Army. And the truth is, since President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Act in 1948, progress has been made. Women are now integrated into most every military role. Only our admission into combat units remain.
Despite the fact that we’re not allowed to hold a combat arms M.O.S. (Military Occupation Specialty) and — at least according to Department of Defense policy — not allowed to serve in ground combat units at the battalion level and below, serving in any capacity in a combat zone can unofficially alter that policy.
While in Iraq, I was directly attached to an infantry battalion. I went everywhere they did, lived as they did and faced the same dangers they did every time I went “outside the wire” to conduct infrastructure assessments, which was nearly every day. There is nothing special or unique about what I experienced. Many female soldiers have been or currently are in the same situation — going outside the wire and facing the possibility of I.E.D.’s, small arms fire and more. The fact is that as “support” we end up attached to infantry, artillery and other combat arms units, and make enemy contact. Despite this, I was blind to the big picture. I suppose I had just guzzled down the Kool-Aid and drove on. It took getting out of the Army for me to see how women in the military are truly viewed and treated.
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