Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Colonel writes on women in military

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

As more women choose to serve in the military, its leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to put female personnel to the best use, an army colonel says in a book soon to be published.

Female military personnel, now over 8,000 in number, are mostly assigned office jobs although there have been calls from them to take combat positions with their male counterparts.

It is a dilemma that military leaders are faced with, Colonel Shen Ming-shih (沈明室) says in his book entitled Women and the Military. The book will be published next month.

Shen, who has served as a platoon leader and a battalion leader, says female military personnel might be physically less capable than their male counterparts but that should not prevent them from filling combat positions.

Military leaders are not to blame for such discrimination, rather male service members have some misconceptions that might not change for a long time, Shen said.

Many male military personnel believe, for instance, that females are not fit to serve in the military because they are physically weaker.

Shen argues that it is true that woman's physical strength can reach only 68 percent of that of men, modern warfare does not require too much manual work.

Another misconception is that female military personnel do not have the character for combat.

Shen dismisses the idea, saying women, after military training, can become as independent, self-confident, and resolute as men.

But as he promotes the right of women to serve in combat positions, Shen also said that female military personnel might not be that willing to take on the harder jobs.

Studies by the army academy show that female cadets do show a strong interest in competing with their male counterparts in every field but that they tend to change their mind after graduating and becoming officers, Shen said.

After serving in the army, these once idealistic female officers realize at one time or another that competing with male officers might not be all that they want.

A survey by the navy shows similar tendencies. It finds that 54.1 percent of females who choose to study at the naval academy make the decision to find other employment.

Only 6.6 percent of the respondents say they hope fulfill long-term goals in the military.

All these surveys show one thing: there might be calls among female military personnel for serving in combat positions like males, but it is acceptable for them to be still treated as "the weaker sex."

A defense official, who was asked to comment on the book, said it is really difficult to put female military personnel to best use if the environment does not change.

"If all female personnel went into combat units, what would happen? No one knows the answer. For the moment, it is best to keep them in office," the official said.

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