Finally, I have written admiringly of the Israel Defense Forces. In my opinion, the Israeli military are among the finest fighting forces in the world. As I have also written, gays and lesbians have served openly, bravely and honorably in the IDF since 1993, including in its elite Special Forces units.
Today, a piece in the New York Times on-line “Opinionator” effectively ties the three issues together.
Catherine Ross starts her article, “Home Fires: Women’s Work,” as follows:
Maybe I should’ve been a soldier in Israel’s army. As of 10 years ago, that country’s women have been allowed to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (I.D.F.) in any capacity that male soldiers serve, including combat units. They can serve in the infantry or mechanized units, or any other combat occupation. They make up a third of the I.D.F., and are treated as equals with males.
She then posts CNN footage of Israeli female soldiers who indeed can and do serve in any capacity (below)
Watching that video got me fired up. It was a real eye opener for me. These women are living proof that female soldiers can perform all of the same duties that male soldiers perform. These women don’t have to go around proving themselves.
And indeed, the Israeli military have actively recruited women since the start of the Israeli State in 1948, and presently allow women to serve in any role and capacity as men, including combat.
Ross focuses on the fact that women in the U.S. Army are not “officially” allowed to hold a combat arms M.O.S. (Military Occupation Specialty) nor allowed to serve in ground combat units at the battalion level and below. In doing so, she touches on an issue that is often brought up by opponents of gays and lesbians serving (openly) in the military.
You see, Catherine Ross, as part of her eight years of Army Reserves service, deployed to Balad and Mosul in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and was attached to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), 2nd Infantry Division.
While in Iraq, she went everywhere the Stryker Brigade went, “lived as they did and faced the same dangers they did.”
As to the “issue”—straights and gays/lesbians “taking showers together” and as to their “sleeping accommodations”—Ross says:
I’ve heard the argument that males and females serving side-by-side in combat situations would create problems. Early on during my tour in Iraq, a situation arose…The Army is supposed to provide separate living quarters for males and females, but on this small F.O.B. [Forward Operating Base], it was not possible. I was the only woman on the FOB. The living quarters consisted of bare-bones containers — essentially shipping containers with a window or two — and four soldiers were crammed into each one. There were not enough containers to go around; I could not have one to myself…I ended up sharing a container with three male soldiers, one of whom was on my team, so I already knew and trusted him as we had already had to rough it in the field together. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the other two, but it ended up working out just fine. They were all perfect gentlemen…At least in my experience, sharing quarters with males in a combat zone was a non-issue.
Finally, Ross says:
While it may be a D.O.D. policy to keep women out of combat, the reality doesn’t match the policy. Right now, a plan is being formulated to phase out “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”, so that openly homosexual soldiers can serve in the military. If all goes according to plan, gay men will be able to serve in both combat and support units, depending on their chosen M.O.S. They will have to adhere to the same performance standards as straight male soldiers. So while we’re at it, can we phase out the policy of underestimating women? If Israel did it, why not the U.S.?
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.