By Joe Ragonese
Every time I state my opposition about women in combat, the stock reply is, “the Israeli Army has women in combat.” It is false, to an extent, but has been repeated so often that it has become an old wives’ tale. The fact is, that many armies have tried women in combat, and have always excluded them after the attempt proved to weaken their armies more than strengthen them.
Russia tried it in World War II, when the German Army was at the gates of Moscow. Every man, woman and child that could hold a rifle was told to face the Hun. In short order, the Russians learned that women in combat are worse than useless, they actually hinder combat operations. There is one female sniper in the Russian Army that earned a high degree of acknowledgement; however, she was a sniper, working mostly alone, and not disruptive to the infantrymen holding the lines.
Russia relegated their female soldiers to anti-aircraft batteries, the most hazardous position they were placed in, after the attempt at integrating them into combat arms failed. After WWII, females were only used in secondary roles as had been done in the U.S. The failure was not due to them being less willing or less brave than their male counterparts, rather due to the divisiveness and chaos created by women being among all male soldiers.
China, too, learned that women in the combat arms caused their formations to become less effective. There the women again tried their best to accept the rigors of an infantryman, a tanker or artilleryman, but again, their presence alone caused so much chaos that they were removed to support and clerical positions.
The Israeli Army came the closest to finding a place for women in the combat arms because of their unique military and geographical status. Israel is a very small nation, with a military that consists mostly of reserve forces. When a call-up occurs the reserves rush to their duty stations, and generally go directly into combat. They, like all reserves, have received training in their specific arms, and then conduct monthly training. Israel has a mandatory military draft, which includes all males and females.
Israel’s reserve forces are the perfect atmosphere to have women in the combat arms. They may go on a 20 mile hike on one of their days of training, but mostly do not bivouac overnight. Even if they do, an overnight co-ed camp does not cause as many problems as a sustained combat campaign, or training for one, does. Generally, the mixed-sex conflicts do not happen.
It was the ideal atmosphere for women in the combat arms. And then the women were put to their first test, during the reprisal operations in the early 1950’s. Israel fought its battle for independence between 1947 and 1949, and throughout that time women were integrated into the combat arms. As stated earlier, Israel is a small nation, and campaigns were short and combatants were able to disengage, go home, and then return to the fight. There were no long, drawn out battles or campaigns in their war for independence.
Shortly after winning their fight for independence, freedom fighters for the Palestinian cause began infiltrating into the country and committing terrorist acts. To retaliate for these atrocities, Israel sent soldiers into the country that the fighters came from and killed as many of their enemy as they could; it was called blood vengeance and was believed the only way to stop the attacks. During one of these incursions, one of the female soldiers in the unit was killed, the body left behind as the rest of the squad retreated. Her body was abused by the enemy forces, and photos of the event were seen by the Israeli people.
During the ’67 War, the Israeli Army had many problems with women in the combat arms, the most notable being that men would spend a majority of their time in firefights, not engaging the enemy, but trying to protect the females all around them.
That ended women in the combat arms, until 2000.
In 2000 the Caracal Battalion was formed, it is a light infantry security battalion that today consists of 70 percent women. It was the only combat force in Israel that has females, and it makes allowances for the special needs of women. It has yet to be involved in a war; so it is not known how they will behave in sustained combat; however, they have had two incidents where the women were fired upon from terrorists coming from Egypt.
The Caracal Battalion’s mission is border security, and they are a part of the Southern Command, which faces Egypt, and Jordon, both countries that have peace treaties with Israel, and it is the safest place in the nation. A second battalion, the Lions of Jordan Battalion, also a part of the Southern Command now also accepts women in its ranks. They are both light infantry battalions, and their mission is stopping smugglers and undocumented immigrants from entering Israel.
“Uniformed Israeli women patrol or help to train men for combat,” said Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness, “but these important missions do not involve direct ground combat, meaning deliberate offensive action against the enemy. None of America’s allies, much less potential adversaries, are treating women like men in the combat arms.”
There is a reason that warriors are a Band of Brothers, because men fight for the men in their unit, alongside them, more than for any ideal of flag or country. After a battle, one can talk all they want about national honor, but when bullets are flying, bombs and artillery exploding all around you and imminent death is staring you in the face, your natural instinct is to run as far away from the danger as fast as you can. The only thing stopping you from doing so, is the man on either side of you.
You man not like that man, but you respect him from having trained alongside him, and you will sacrifice your life for him because he is your brother-in-arms. Worse than death is to be thought a coward. That is what military order and discipline instills in a combat soldier. Without it no battle or war can be won.
Having women as a part of the combat arm causes that military order and discipline to disappear. Why, you may ask? Women flirt with men, and men flirt right back; it is as natural as the sun rising in the morning and setting at night. No order from superior officers not to interact with each other will stop it from occurring. With women in a combat unit, the Band of Brothers instantly becomes nothing more than a high school class with weapons and high explosives.
The one thing that can tear apart a cohesive fighting unit is internal conflict over the affections of a woman. With one or two women in an infantry unit, and 49 men, that conflict will happen more often than not. It will cause long lasting and simmering estrangement between the soldiers, who must risk their lives for each other.
Women in the combat arms is a recipe for disaster. It is not a question of whether a woman can do the job, or if she has the same commitment or courage as a man, rather it is a question of human nature. Men and women form relationships that break apart the Band of Brothers relationship necessary to form a cohesive and effective fighting force.
There can be no Band of Brothers and Sisters, it is a concept that has been tried since the dawn of mankind, and failed every time. If we want our military to win our next war, we have to stop the ‘women in the combat arms debacle’ that Obama started as he was leaving office, now; before it is too late.