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Special-Ops Survey on Women in Combat Backfires: Pengaton calls participants ‘uninformed’

Summary: The US Special Operations Command has conducted several surveys of 9000 members about their perceptions about women in combat, in an attempt to “to examine the socio-cultural barriers to integration, and potential solution(s) to overcome those barriers.” There are several stock-standard misunderstandings that proliferate the responses to the surveys, such as women in combat will be more likely to be sexually assaulted if captured. The pentagon has claimed many of the respondents, majority of whom were men serving in male-only units, as “uninformed.”

SOURCE: Anna Mulrine, April 7 2015, ‘ Pentagon faces hurdle to women in special ops: uninformed men,’ Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2015/0407/Pentagon-faces-hurdle-to-women-in-Special-Ops-uninformed-men

Air-force Academy takes steps to raise awareness of sexual assault

Summary: Air Force Academy has instigated campaigns to raise awareness and educate cadets about sexual misconduct in light of the recent White House report that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college, including military service academies. Superintendent of the AFA, Lt. Gen Michelle Johnson suggests that 20% of reported sexual misconduct relates to rape, 20% relate to events prior to joining the academy and the 60% majority of reports are for sexual harassment and “unwanted touching.” The AFA is attempting to raise cadets awareness about what constitutes sexual misconduct, and also to discourage “social media badmouthing.”

SOURCE: Debbie Kelley, 2015, ‘AFA Superintendent wants to talk about ‘uncomfortable’ topic,’ Military.com, 7 April, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/04/07/afa-superintendent-wants-to-talk-about-uncomfortable-topic.html

April 5, 2015: Male US Soldiers disciplined for facilitating ‘risque’ photo shoot

Summary: Several US Amry members have been discipilined or sacked for facilitating a ‘salacious’ photo shoot that used Army vehicles, weapons and personnel that was “not in harmony with [Army] values.” An investigator into this event said he ‘he hoped the Utah National Guard recommended the removal of pornography and other media ‘that promote sexist behavior and objectify women or men’ from military stores.” A video of the shoot surfaced in October 2014, and since then several soldiers face charges of discrediting the Guard, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, and the sale, waste or destruction of military property. Interestingly, many soldiers are also charged with ‘conduct unbecoming an officer,’ for much serious crimes as sexual harassment or assault. If only the army would respond in such a serious way with sexual assault as it did with this bikini photoshoot.

Source: Daily Mail Reporter, 2015, ‘ Pornography balmed for ‘sexist’ military culture that led to soldier’s photo shoot with bikini-clad models firing high powered-weapon and riding in a tank,’ Daily Mail UK, 5 April, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3025702/Pornography-blamed-sexist-military-culture-led-soldiers-photoshoot-bikini-clad-models-firing-high-powered-weapons.html#ixzz3WU2JGd4Y

April 4, 2015: US Army members demanding flexibility to meet family needs

Summary: The generation of millennial men and women serving in the US forces require greater flexibility in work arrangements to manage their family and service. A recent survey found that the values among young male officers more closely mirror that of women than those of older men, says Mr. Barno, now a distinguished practitioner in residence at American University’s School of International Service in Washington. The US Defense Secretary Carter has asked DoD to “think outside the five-sided box called the Pentagon about how [they] need to change so that [they] remain attractive to our children and our children’s children.”  With the concept of the nuclear family breaking down and other industries adapting to changed lifestyles, the defence forces also need to keep up.

Source: Anna Mulrine, 2015, ‘For Military Millenials, ‘ duty or child?’ is not just an issue for women,’ CSMonitor, 4 April, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2015/0404/For-military-Millennials-duty-or-child-is-not-just-an-issue-for-women

April 4: Male Special Ops Troops doubt women’s ability to serve in combat roles

Summary: Special Operations forces have conducted several surveys on troops’ perceptions and understandings about women in combat. The greatest fear is that training and physical standards will be lowered to integrate women,to the detriment of Special Operations forces. “One survey, by RAND Corp., reflected doubts that women could meet the overall job demands, found concerns that sexual harassment or assault could increase, and cited worries about “unequal treatment” of special operations candidates and personnel. Some worried that if women were let in to some jobs, they might be treated more harshly.” The survey details have not been released officially, however these results were obtained from the public discussions conducted by Special Operations Command.

SOURCE: Lolita C. Balidor, 2015, ‘Special ops survey: troops doubt women cut out for elite combat roles,’ PBSNews, April 4, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/special-ops-troops-doubt-women-cut-elite-combat-roles/

Female Syrian Soldiers used for publicity?

Summary: Bashas Al-Assad’s secular Baath party attempts to mobilise ‘progressive’ campaigns, including the liberation and emancipation of Syrian women, specifically through the iconography of the masculine defence force. The visual and discursive representations of the Syrian Army centre on the 800 women that are part of an elite combat unit. This brigade was widely publicised as women enlist voluntarily, are trained and then are dispatched to the front line of combat operations. This is not a radically ‘modern’ turn for the Syrian defence force, as “there have always been women in the Syrian Army,” claims Fabrice Balanche, an academic expert on Syria. A French researcher for CNRS, Zakaria Taha, also claims that, “This allows [Assad’s Baath Party] to be seen from the outside as a secular regime that is both respectful of women’s rights and actively involved in the fight against the Islamist threat. It also legitimises the party in the eyes of Western countries in its fight against Islamist movements as well as giving the party more power to silence the opposition.”

Source: SOURCE: Sarah Leduc, 2015, ‘Assad’s female fighters: Progress or Propaganda?,’ France24, 2 April, (http://www.france24.com/en/20150402-syria-women-soldiers-assad-army-propaganda/)

Lawsuit to stop US DoD putting commanders in charge pf sexual assault cases

Summary: Four active-duty and ex-service women have launched legal action to stop the Defense Department putting commanders in charge of sexual assault cases in their own unit. Attorney Susan Burke says, “we hope we can get the federal court to help make sure the department doesn’t continue to let people who have known misogynistic and sexist tendencies to be the judges.” There has been a grossly common narrative of sexual assault and harassment claims being investigated and dismissed through minimal disciplinary actions, which catalysed the 4 women into filing this lawsuit. According to a report released in 2014, the number of reported sexual assaults is rising, with 5 983 reports in 2014 compared to 3 604 in 2012. With this trend and the current policies around investigation, reform needs to take place.

Source: Patricia Kime, 2015, ‘ Lawsuit seeks to remove commanders from rape cases,’ Military Times, 2 April, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/03/31/us-military-sexual-assault-cases/70720580/

Cate McGregor Speaks out about being a trans woman in the Australian Defense Forces

Summary: Group Captain Cate McGregor began her gender transition in 2012, and is now speaking out about her experiences in the Australian Defence Force as a woman in 2015. Woman are sidelined, ignored and interrupted in many sectors, and many notable advocates have spoken up about this insidious discrimination. McGregor’s remarks highlight the acute distinction between women and men in the male-dominated military and provide a comparison of experiences as a man and woman. While McGregor speaks up about her experiences of marginalisation as a woman, she is also vocal about the support Chief of Army David Morrison and her cricketing circle demonstrated when transitioning. Cate McGregor will address the National Press Club next Wednesday about her transformation as part of the Women in Media lectures.

SOURCE: Emma Macdonald, 2015, ‘A woman in a man’s man’s world,’ April 1, The Canberra Times, http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/a-woman-in-a-mans-mans-world-20150401-1mbkvv.html

Lt. William R. Cauley, active male serviceman, responds to Col. Brook re: women in combat

Lieutenant William R. Cauley, an active infantry officer in the US Army debunks the myths of womens inferior physical capability, low female retention, and the primal urges of male soldiers that Colonel Brooks bases his argument against the inclusion of women in combat (http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/26/is-our-country-setting-women-up-to-fail/)

  • ON RETENTION: The issue of female retention in combat units is a misnomer, as retention and motiviation are issues for men in the defence force.
  • ON PHYSICAL CAPABILITY: Cauley writes that “Neither gender had a monopoly on success or failure when faced with harsh and rigorous training. I will not dwell on the tired arguments about physical ability.”

ON PRIMAL URGES OF MEN: Cauley concedes that sexual violence and harassment are serious issues in the US defence force, but argues that there needs to be a cultural shift in attitudes towards women and sex akin to the shift when African-american soldiers were integrated into the white US army.

SOURCE: Thomas E. Ricks, 2015, ‘Col. Brooks, about women in the Army: I don’t think you know today’s force,’ Foreign Policy, March 31, https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/03/31/col-brooks-about-women-in-the-army-i-dont-think-you-know-todays-force/

IDF avoids using sexual harassment with “conduct unbecoming an officer” for recent firing

The Israeli Defene Force investigated Lieutenant Colonel Liran Hajbi for sexually harassing two female soldiers, but only charged him with ‘conduct unbecoming an officer,’ and issued his immediate dismissal without a criminal record. The indictment indicates that Hajbi sent inappropriate text messages to his female secretary, as well as hugged and kissed a female solider against her will. Not only was this man an officer in the IDF, he was the commander of the battalion that these two female soldiers served in. The hypocrisy of a defence force that “takes very seriously the issue of sexual offences against its soldiers,” yet fails to prosecute sexual harassment is astounding.


“One of the complainants said she is disappointed by how the military justice system takes into account the battlefield achievements of soldiers in determining charges, when she feels such considerations should only come into play when determining punishment.”

Source: Lilac Shoval, 2015, ‘Officer forced out of IDF over inappropriate behavior toward women,’ Israelhayom [Online], March 30, (http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=24511)