Females in Special Operations

Kumar, Shanthini
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Female service members have played integral roles in United States military operations since the Revolutionary War. Initially serving in roles such as nurses, factory workers, secretaries, and intelligence gatherers, women today contribute to wartime activities through participation in ground combat units and special operations teams. The capacities in which they serve have changed immensely over the years, accommodating the social and political reflections of society’s perception of women. However it was only in January of 2013 when former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced all military jobs—to include special operations forces and infantry occupations—be open to women without exception. Until just two years ago, female service members could not serve in official capacities in ground combat units or special operations forces. In this thesis, I delve into the history behind female soldiers in ground combat during the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001. Going back 15 years, I analyze key moments of female leadership and participation in ground combat operations, and review the positive and negative implications of women serving alongside their male counterparts. This will include studying female leadership in special operation forces in the Army, Air Force, and Marine branches, the effects of integration on unit cohesion, and research studies on gender integration conducted by or on behalf of the U.S. military. I evaluate the effects of integration on social and task cohesion of special operations units, specifically noting the origins and contributions of female engagement teams. I conclude that modern warfare promotes female leadership in combat, and that further evolution of military effectiveness includes successful integration of women into all fields of the U.S. Armed Services.