The Female Tankers in Somalia

Foreign Policy.com has posted an article on the rather interesting story of the Ugandan female tankers serving as peace-keepers in Somalia.  Hats off to these brave women.

Excerpt:

ARABISKA FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Somalia — It was 9:30 a.m., in a desolate corner of Somalia, and Lt. Cpl. Juliet Uwimana was taking her tank for a test drive. She and the rest of Uganda’s Battle Group 18 had been in the war-torn Lower Shabelle region for only a week, but already the Battle Group was on high alert.

rsz_pc4a5402Al-Shabab militants had overrun three similar forward-operating bases in the last year, killing more than 100 soldiers. They had also attacked dozens of other bases, including one just six miles from their post in Arabiska. But this morning was a quiet one — hence Uwimana’s test drive in the T-55 tank. She stood on a metal seat as the machine jerked forward, spewing smoke from its massive treads and rolling through sand so deep it threatened to swallow the vehicle whole.

Uwimana is one of roughly 500 women in the Ugandan contingent of AMISOM, the 17,000-strong African Union force tasked with battling al-Shabab and securing the troubled Horn of Africa nation so that a political process can take root. They serve as drivers, gunners, and technicians in the motorized infantry division — roles that women were barred from in the U.S. military until as recently as last year. But in Somalia, female peacekeepers have been serving in these positions for years.

Read the full article here.

US Graduates First Female Tank Crew Member

DSC_0150.jpgAccording to the Idaho Statesman, Sgt. 1st Class Erin Smith of the Idaho Army National Guard last week became the nation’s first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the U.S. Army’s M1 Armor Crewman School.  Smith joined the Guard as a combat medic in 2001 and has served overseas tours in Bosnia in 2002 and in Iraq in 2004.  Until recently, females have historically been prohibited from serving in combat roles within the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. However, in December of 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the U.S. military would open all positions to women, without exception. This means those occupational skills previously off limits to females, like infantry and armor, are now open to both women and men who can meet the standards set by the different military services. “I was interested in the idea of being an Army tanker long before talk about integration so when the opportunity came up I decided to go for it,” Smith said. “It was intimidating at first—the fear of failure or not being good enough—but it’s been an awesome experience.”

Full article here.

 

Israeli Defense Forces decides “No women in Tank Corps”

DSCF3439_waHaaretz is reporting that the IDF, after extensive field tests to explore the issue, has decided that female soldiers cannot serve in the tank corps.  Among the difficulties identified in the tests were physical discrepancies between the women and men in tasks necessary within the combat compartment of the Merkava tank, particularly the loader position.  In addition, evaluators examined the level of intimacy required among soldiers who are forced to spend days at a time locked into a small cabin while on operational duty. The privacy of a female combat soldier could at times be severely compromised under such conditions, the IDF found.

Full article here.