This morning we ran a story on Military.com that furthered the debate on whether the Army should allow females in front-line, combat arms units.
Army Special Operations Command has deployed its first teams of female Soldiers assigned to commando units in Afghanistan, and military officials are assessing their initial performance in theater as “off the charts.”
In a controversial move early this year, the Army created a new avenue for women to serve with front-line combat units in some of the most specialized and covert missions. The so-called “Cultural Support Teams” are attached to Special Forces and Ranger units to interface with the female population to gain vital intelligence and provide social outreach.
“When I send an [SF team] in to follow up on a Taliban hit … wouldn’t it be nice to have access to about 50 percent of that target population — the women?” said Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, commander of the Army Special Warfare Center and School, which runs the CST program.
“And now we’re doing that with huge success,” Sacolick said. “They are in Afghanistan right now and the reviews are off the charts. They’re doing great.”
I’ve got to be honest with you, I was a bit skeptical of this program when we first wrote about it on Military.com (the program was originally called “female engagement teams” rather than the new “cultural support teams”) back in February, but after seeing the picture above, I was impressed. Sacolick is right: for the Special Forces mission to succeed, the force needs “enablers” like these gutsy women every bit as much as it needs JTACs. Their training program is sound and they gain valuable combat experience (and an SF combat patch) before going back to their parent units.
We’ll see how this evolves — I could see these women getting a bit more specialized training so that they actually could “fight their way in” if they need to. Having them on the ground as early as possible would certainly help.