Women to get combat roles in British army from 2016

Women to get combat roles in British army from 2016

Fri Dec 19, 2014 3:18PM GMT

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon says London would allow women to serve in Britain’s infantry units and fight in close combat roles for the first time from 2016.

Fallon said on Friday that roles “should be determined by ability and not gender,” hoping to introduce the change “subject to some final research over the next year or so.”

“Women can fight just as effectively as men. There’s a small piece of work to be done, but I think army selection should be done on the basis of ability, from now on, and not on the basis of gender,” he said.

The British defense secretary also dismissed the idea that training regimes for female troopers would be made less tough. “It’s not weakening at all. I think we can improve the way we conduct physical training,” Fallon stated.

The remarks come after a government-commissioned review concluded that mixed groups would not undermine troop cohesion, and close combat roles should be opened to women.

Britain’s army currently allows women to serve on the front line, but does not permit them to serve in the infantry or armored corps where the primary aim is to “close with and kill the enemy.”

Major Judith Webb, the first woman to command an all-male field force squadron in the British army, has expressed caution about the move.

“We are physically different. Of course I believe in equality, but as an example from my squadron … there were quite a lot of physical tasks to do every time we deployed on exercise.”

Major General Patrick Cordingley, a former commander of the 7th Armored Brigade, known as the Desert Rats, said the move would be a “mistake.”

“There is a political imperative. However, I think that it is a mistake from the armed forces.

“I can understand why politically it is a good thing to be seen to be doing – on the other hand, the practicalities of women in the infantry and armored corps are considerable and should not be overlooked,” he said.

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