The US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) in a highly controversial move, launched a first ever program to train and deploy female special operations soldiers as part of a new program to include women in the US Army’s elite special forces units; reporting their initial performance in the Afghanistan AOR as “off the charts.”
Women have worked for years in the field as CIA agents. What took the military so long to figure out what a valuable asset they have among women?
This move by USASOC marks the country’s first ever effort to open up direct action combat units to women, allowing them for the first time to serve alongside their male counterparts in some of the most rigorous and specialized covert missions not previously available to women.
Female soldiers should be included as part of special forces units as a necessary component of any SOCOM unit to defeat the ongoing counterinsurgency threat in the new asymmetric battle space.
Major General Bennet Sacolick, Commander of the US Army Special Warfare
Center and School which runs this new program dubbed, Cultural Support Teams or CST, says “When I send an [SF] team in to follow-up on a Taliban hit… wouldn’t it be nice to have access to about 50% of the target population — the women?” He goes on to say, “And now we’re doing that with huge success, they are in Afghanistan right now and the reviews are off the charts. They are doing great!”
The new Female Engagement Teams aren’t required to endure all of the training of an Army Ranger or Special Forces soldier, but they do have to learn advanced weapons handling, regional culture, intelligence collection, small-unit combat tactics, and fast-roping.
A current shortage of properly trained female special forces operators is limiting Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF)’s ability to connect and collaborate with a critical part of Afghanistan’s society — the women.
The nonpartisan Military Leadership Diversity Commission evaluates Pentagon policies to make sure they promote equal opportunities for all soldiers.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a press briefing that he foresaw a day when the military would lift its ban on women serving in elite special forces units as a result of the ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan AORs which have thrust women into firefights, forcing US Commanders to reevaluate the centuries-old policy that has existed since its first inception.
The top commander of US Special Operations Command, Admiral Olson, thinks it’s time for women to go into combat as Navy SEALS.
Admiral Olson goes on to say, “I think it’s much more important what they’re made of and whether or not they have the courage and the intellectual agility to do a job rather than the number of push-ups they can do. There are a number of things that a man and a woman can do together that two guys can’t.”
The opportunity for women to begin serving in these direct action roles with Special Operations teams comes as an Army commission prepares officially to recommend that women be permitted to serve in combat units.
The US Army is not the first branch of the US military machine to begin employing female soldiers in special forces roles. USARSOC got the idea for including women as part of this elite team from the US Marine Corps after it began setting up similar teams back in 2009.
Although this is a progressive move for the United States military, it still hasn’t lifted the ban on women in direct combat positions. However, other countries are far more progressive than the United States in this decision. Australia just announced on September 27 that it will begin allowing women to serve in combat roles; making it one of just a handful of countries to allow women to serve alongside their male counterparts in some of the most dangerous roles in modern warfare. In an aggressive 5-year plan, Australia will join Canada, Israel, and New Zealand, as the only developed countries to allow women to serve in direct action capacities. Even the new military developed and trained by the US in Iraq employs female soldiers in direct combat roles. (Pictured Above)
Although the United States is making slow movement in the right direction, it still places restrictions on female soldiers taking certain Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’) that Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and now Australia allow. In other parts of the world, women are quickly becoming relied upon for direct action roles, including long-time allies of the United States. Israel for example makes frequent use of women as highly trained snipers and sniper trainers. Several Soviet women distinguished themselves as Fighter Aces recently in an elite class of combat aviators in that country.
The fact of the matter is, in a US military increasingly hurting for qualified new applicants and also dealing with high attrition rates, as long as an individual can meet or exceed the minimum requirements of their job, gender should be arbitrary.
Those opposing such a move commonly use a rank hypocritical argument that women cannot meet the performance targets set for their MOS.
Quite the contrary. In the US Army for example, performance targets are routinely calibrated for age and position. This means a 40 year-old soldier undergoes less rigorous training requirements than that of his 20 year-old counterpart. However, both men are sent into combat. The modern high-tech battlefield and the new asymmetric threats faced by the US military with women suicide bombers and women killing US soldiers in surprise attacks increasingly means that technical expertise and critical thinking skills are more valuable than the old mentality of brute strength.
Additionally, combat experience is usually regarded as a necessary promotion requisite to senior officer positions. Denying female personnel this experience ensures that very few will ever reach the highest echelons of the military command structure, furthering the issue of sexism across the Unified Combatant Commands.
In a Rand Corporation study of increased deployment of women in all three branches of the US military throughout the 1990′s was an impetus for Rand to move forward with its endorsement of the further integration of women in the different services of that period.
Of the more than twenty nations that have expanded the role of women in the military to positions that are likely to see combat, none have repealed their decisions.
In summary, the “front line” has become increasingly dissolved. In this era of diffuse and protracted conflict of asymmetric warfare, the front line is everywhere in an AOR. The very premise of a “front line” in guerrilla-style warfare and civilian surges is mendacious. Take for example the Jessica Lynch case, or the killing of two women marines in a suicide attack in late June of 2005. The fact of the matter is, the type of modern warfare that the US is becoming increasingly engaged in is against non-state actors; women are exposed to “front line” risks no matter what their MOS or combat support role is.
With the increasing number of firefights that women are becoming engaged in while supporting combat roles, it simply makes more sense to train them appropriately as front line soldiers so they have the same level of training as their male counterparts; lest they continue to be needlessly killed from a lack of proper training because they were never trained for “front line” positions in a place and time where that “front line” no longer exists.