By Staff Sgt. Mireille Merilice-RobertsMay 10, 2018
HOHENFELS, Germany (May 08, 2018) -- "You are a Soldier first, then you are male and female. It is about equality," said Adriana Zakk, a Polish psychology coordinator assigned to Poland's 12th Mechanized Division.
During Combined Resolve X, females of various ranks train alongside their male counterparts to maintain proficiency in combined arms maneuvers, strengthen interoperability, and enhance deterrence in order to remain globally responsive.
Only 10 percent of service members from NATO member nations are female. According to the 2017 National Report of NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives, one of the issues facing females serving in the armed forces is limited leadership opportunities.
Females serving in combat or a leadership position is not a novelty in today's military, however, most counter opinions focus on women serving and training in traditional combat roles. Females currently serve as medics, drivers, intelligence analysts and other various positions. Despite facing conflicting issues, the number of women serving in the armed forces continues to grow.
"There have always been females in the military, but females are progressing and the number is growing," stated Cpl. Donjeta Kransniqi, an explosive ordinance detonation technician assigned to EOD Company, Kosovo Civil Protection Regiment. "I think the mentality has changed and they understand it is not just for males. We are allowed to be in every unit. There are a lot of challenges being a female, but I always wanted to serve, and this is the reason why I joined the army."
In December of 2015, the U.S. Pentagon ruled all military combat positions open to females. Prior to the 2015 decision, women continued to make tremendous strides to be seen as equals. Those strides date back to the American Revolutionary War, when Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to join the ranks of men and fight for equality.
"Everyone that joins is aware of the expectation, so it does not matter if you are a man or woman," stated Polish 1st Lt. Katarzyna Marciszak, a fire support mortar commander assigned to 3rd Battalion, 12th Mechanized division.
Typically females are smaller in frame and height, according to Ogden et al, Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics (2004), but when it comes to weighing pros vs. cons, females offer benefits that surpass minor genetic differences in combat.
"People think they are not healthy enough," said Zaak. "They are not strong enough, but females are actually stronger physically and emotionally to do the same jobs."
Zakk pointed out the general tone implied females are underestimated based on their gender.
Many NATO allied forces deploy to regions with mass civilian populous, encountering female migrants and refugees. According to NCGP, 20 percent of migrants are female, so having the ability to discuss gender issues is imperative.
"We are also strong and smart, and we can do things that males can do," stated Krasniqi. "They treat me like a brother and I treat them like a sister."
Many nations, like the Lithuanian army, have co-ed living quarters. Team members live within close proximity to reduce work and communication barriers. Some may see this as problematic, however, the Lithuanian army reported zero incidents of sexual assault, according to the 2016 and 2017 national report of NCGP.
"I move like my men, and I show them that I am strong and smart," stated Pfc. Lingaile Jukneviciute, a Lithuanian combat engineer assigned to 1st Engineer Platoon, Juozas Vikus Engineer Battalion, 1st Engineer Corps. "If they gave me the option to live with other women, I would choose to stay with my men, because we are one team."
According to the 2009 White House Project Report, 'Benchmarking Women's Leadership,' "When women are present in significant numbers, the bottom line improves-from financial profits to the quality and scope of decision making."
"Women just want the same opportunities offered to men," added Zakk.