Any Time, Any Place, Any Gender The Risks and Rewards of Integrating Females into Special Operations Forces
SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES, AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL MAXWELL AFB
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In 2013, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rescinded the long-standing restriction of women in combat. The Commander, United States Special Operations Command USSOCOM quickly accepted the removal of the ban, and tasked his special operations forces SOF organizations to examine standards of each of the selection schools. From the first US Public Law instituted in 1901 allowing women to serve in uniform, women provided a great service to the nation while filling an operational void. During periods of interwar, the legal authority was inconsistent with social acceptance and operational necessity. However, during periods of war, Congress quickly ratified amendments and adjustments to Public Law allowing women to serve their country in limited non-combat roles. In 1940, the Special Operations Executive SOE and the Office of Strategic Services OSS, both paramilitary intelligence organizations, were created to counter the Nazi German threat in Europe and the Imperial Japanese threat in the Pacific. Both of these organizations employed women in daring missions behind enemy lines with successful outcomes. After the war, both organizations quickly disbanded, and others established to fill the roles. The special operations forces today still use the time-tested method of reverse selection engineered by the SOE and OSS during World War II. The missions of special operations forces are unique, high-risk, and have considerable political-fallout if they fail or are compromised, and therefore selection must remain incredibly rigorous. Military women are faced with options never before found in history of the US military. The physical hurdles still lie ahead of them, and when they successfully complete a SOF selection program, they will still have to face the hurdle of the cultural identity of organizations and the team subcultures. Women have a place in SOF.