Women in the military

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Women in the military can help a country by relieving men of jobs which either sex can do, thus providing more men for combat duty. Some argue that men are much better at combat[1] such that it makes sense to permit (or require) women to stay away from the front lines.

While there are hundreds of women currently serving with distinction in limited combat roles today, there had been some controversy early on when accommodations were made to break the gender barrier in certain roles. For example, Kelly Flynn was given five extra chances to complete flight school, while her male peers were given only one chance before "washing out".

Effectiveness of Women in US Military Combat Roles

American female servicewomen are distinguishing themselves in duty, and proving through their contributions that they are able to serve in combat roles based on merit. In an 1999 interview, Rear Adm. Alfred Harms says he has little reason to know the gender of the pilot who sits behind the controls of each plane. "On any given day I don't have a clue who is in which aircraft, and frankly it doesn't matter. They are absolutely one and the same, and we look at each one of our men and women as sailors. And we have great sailors on this ship" [2](the USS Carl Vinson).

In Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq, female helicopter pilots like Capt. Sarah Piro are demonstrating their valor in Iraq in one of the few direct combat roles women are officially allowed to perform in the military. Their missions often put them at risk of being hit by enemy machine-gun fire and rockets, and require them to shoot back. In recent months of fighting, Piro has quietly sleuthed out targets, laid down suppressive fire for GIs in battle and chased insurgents through dangerous urban settings, maneuvering all the while to avoid being shot out of the sky. In one incident, she limped back to base in a bullet-riddled helicopter, ran to another aircraft and returned to the fight 10 minutes later. "There was no one I wanted to hear more on a raid than her. She's a spectacular Army aviator," according to Major Chris Kennedy, executive officer of the regiment.[3]

In 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, USAF Major Kim Campbell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for supporting American troops in combat with the Iraqi Republican Guard, and then nursing her heavily damaged A-10 Thunderbolt safely back to base.[4]

Fictional Women in the Military


In the Tom Clancy novel Red Storm Rising, Major Amy "Buns" Nakamura, a female F-15 Eagle pilot, becomes the first American female ace when she shoots down three Soviet Tu-16 bombers and two satellites. In the universe of the book, the ban on women in combat hasn't been lifted, but Nakamura and her flight run into the bombers over the Atlantic Ocean while on a ferry flight to Europe, and attacking satellites isn't covered under the ban.


In the anime Area 88, Kitori Palvanaff is a female Mirage F1 pilot who becomes the third-highest scoring member of the unit. In one scene, she single-handedly takes on seven rebel MiGs that are attacking the base, downing three, but being hit and forced to crash-land.

Balalaika, the boss of Russian Mafia branch Hotel Moscow in the anime Black Lagoon, is a veteran of the Afghanistan War. Burn scars, almost certainly suffered during that conflict, cover part of her face and her chest. Another character of the series, Roberta the maid, used to be a soldier and terrorist for the FARC guerillas of Colombia, where she was known as the “Bloodhound of Florencia”. One of the male characters in the anime is of the opinion that Balalaika, Roberta, and gunwoman Revy are “the three most terrifying women in the world.”

The issue of women in the military and in combat is a commonly-addressed topic on the TV series JAG.

In a number of sci-fi series, such as Space: Above and Beyond and Roughnecks: the Starship Troopers Chronicles, women serve and fight alongside men in all branches of the military. In Star Trek: Voyager, a woman captain's Starfleet's newest vessel and takes her crew into combat on a number of occasions.


  1. Lt. Col. Robert L. Maginnis wrote: "Because of undeniable differences in speed, strength and endurance between men and women, women will always be in greater danger than men on the battlefield just as they are in some urban combat zones. In terms of modern-day combat, women do not have an equal opportunity to survive." [1]
  2. [2] Female pilots earning respect in Gulf combat roles
  3. [3] Female Pilots Get Their Shot in the Iraqi Skies; Men Say Women Are Proving Skills in Direct Combat
  4. Article in Stars and Stripes

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See also