Infantry: Female American Infantry in Iraq


December 22, 2005: In Iraq, women have finally joined the infantry. It's become customary to request volunteers from among women soldiers and marines, to accompany infantry units conducting searches and raids. This is done because you cause a major cultural uproar if male troops search Iraqi women, and if you don't search the women, the Iraqi men know they can hide weapons, or other stuff (explosives, documents) under the women's clothing. So, over the last two years, more and more female soldiers and marines go out on the raids. These women are armed, and ready to fight, if need be. Several hundred women have thus far served in this capacity, and some of them do get involved in combat. Few have been killed or injured on these operations, which are not as dangerous as a offensive combat (attacking a town held by an enemy that is likely to resist getting driven out.)

In the army brigades and marine regiments, the 1st Sergeants (the senior NCOs that run company size units) are asked to seek volunteers from among their female troops. The 1st Sergeants know which of the women are "hard core" (as far as military life is concerned), and there are more volunteers than there are opportunities to go out with the raiding parties. Those female soldiers who see some fighting can get the Combat Action Badge (a new award, like the sixty year old Combat Infantry Badge, for non-infantry troops who have seen at least 30 days of combat.)

In addition to searching the women, the intelligence personnel and translators often find that the female troops pick up subtle signs that the Iraqi women they are interrogating are lying, or are more willing, than they appear, to be helpful. Iraqi civilians tend to be very surprised when they run into the female troops, armed and dressed like the male troops. Many Iraqi women apparently like the idea, and some who speak English, tell the female troops so. Most Iraqi women are in arranged marriages, are not happy with their husbands, and like the idea of heavily armed women.


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