When one thinks of the beginning of human life on this earth, the first mental picture to cross most minds is ‘cavemen’. But what about the cavewomen? Do you really think they stayed home all day waiting for their men to come back with prey? What about those single women? Did they starve to death, since they had no man in their life to kill animals for their dinner?
When looking back in time, we tend to associate men with combat – after all wasn’t it the men fighting in our wars? Let’s take World War I for instance. Thousands of women worked as nurses, both on the battlefield as well as in hospitals. However, the only country to deploy a considerable amount of female combat troops was (surprisingly) Russia. Apart from that, the only way women managed to fight in any war was by dressing up as men.
In World War II we can note a slight improvement, however most women were still performing nursing, clerical or supportive roles. Nonetheless, approximately 500,000 had some type of combat role in anti-aircraft units in Britain, Russia and Germany. Although there is increasing progress, women were still not allowed to pull any triggers, as killing was still perceived too ‘manly’ for them.
It wasn’t until 1948 that a law finally passed in the US that gave women the option to form an indefinite part of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Nowadays, most countries allow female soldiers, but unfortunately there are still many who refuse to do so, mainly because they insist that women do not have the same stamina and physical abilities as men.
Malta is no exception, and there are currently quite a few females in our military. Last April, the AFM had 81 new recruits, 10 of which were women, and 11 new officer cadets, which included 5 females. In a magazine published by the AFM called ‘On Parade’, Lucienne Desira (Lance Bombardier) was interviewed, where she spoke about a course she had attended in the UK. “I was the only female participant in the course, since British Army females do not form part of Infantry companies. I managed to complete all physical training at par with my male counterparts.”
Although there is notable improvement along the years, it still remains a fact that men (especially those feeling proud upon enlisting) carry on the ideology of gender roles. In some circumstances, it is feared by leaders that the men may act foolishly to protect the women in their unit, which will inhibit their performance during combat. There is also the issue of harassment, to which women are (sadly) more susceptible.
My personal experience has been that the (principles) of leadership and team building apply equally to women as to men. As long as you protect qualification standards and give no impression that anyone is getting a free ride, integration, while not without bumps, will be much less dramatic than people envision.
Major Eleanor Taylor, Canadian Military and the first woman to lead an infantry company in combat.
Honestly, as long as the applicant is qualified, their gender should not even be taken into consideration. If extra training is necessary for muscle building, to prevent any injuries, then it should be up to the individual to do it – male or female. If the decision-making skills (which are at the end of the day the most valuable skills one can have) are there, what more needs to be done?
I feel that I can properly express myself through my writing, and that it's a great way to make myself heard, so that I too can someday make a difference in this complicated world.