October 7th, 2011


Women in combat in the Australian military and elsewhere

So, the subject of women in combat roles in the military has been something I've been interested in ever since I read a big report on the subject of women in the U.S. military that was released during the Clinton administration. The reports findings and recommendations could be roughly summarized as follows:
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I was quite curious about the assertions made in this article in the Guardian about Australia's recent decision to open all combat roles in its military to women who meet the necessary physical fitness standards:

The Australian Defence Association, an influential security thinktank, previously warned that female soldiers could face heavy casualties. Biomechanical differences between the sexes' differences in muscle distribution, centres of gravity and rate of recovery from physical exertion could make even physically strong women more vulnerable in combat, according to Neil James, the association's executive director.

"You've got to worry about the risk of disproportionate female casualties compared to men and the minister's announcement really doesn't indicate that he's across all that detail," James said.

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In conclusion:

  • I wish people would cite their sources.

  • I'm guessing that a general lack of physical fitness among female recruits is a bigger problem for female readiness to serve in combat roles than specific physiological differences between the sexes, with the exception of those roles that do really require a notable level of upper-body strength.

  • It always surprises me that no one ever cites real-world data from militaries that already allow women in combat roles. The Israeli Defense Force has a combat battalion that is 70% female. If they were suffering casualties at a disproportionate rate, you'd think someone would have noticed.