|Updated: 03-Aug-2005||Committee on Women in NATO Forces|
16 June 2005
of the Commander of the Bundeswehr Operations Command Lieutenant General Holger Kammerhoff at the Committee on Women in NATO Forces 2005 Annual Meeting
Distinguished Chairwomen Colonel Lund, Ladies and Gentlemen,
thank you for having invited me to this year's conference of your committee. It´s an honour and pleasure indeed to be with you today.
To start with a citation:
Already Plato, a Greek author and philosopher in Athens (427 – 347 BC) concluded:
“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.”
In the following I would like to share my experience as Commander of the German Bundeswehr Operations Command, and – prior to September 2004 a one year tour as COMKFOR, with respect to women serving on national, multinational and NATO operations abroad.
At the end of my presentation I would like to listen to your specific and open-minded views on the topic and will try to answer your challenging questions.
To start with a matter of fact. Female service members are today an integral part of many armed forces all over the world. In the Federal Republic of Germany, however, after WWII it took a decade to build the Bundeswehr followed by a long period when women did not serve in the armed forces at all because of constitutional restrictions. Between 1975 and 2001 for women access to the Armed Forces of West Germany was restricted to the medical service and the military music branch. In contrast, no such restrictions were in place in the former GDR, i. e. East Germany, before 1990.
Taking into account the decisions of the European Court of Justice of January 2000, the German Government fundamentally extended the career opportunities for women within the Bundeswehr.
Since 2001 women have been eligible for service in all branches of our armed forces. And there was a common understanding. Generally, female service members must shoulder the same loads as their male fellow soldiers.
By many talks and based on my own experience I got convinced: Women in the armed forces of whatever country do not really want any concessions, no inappropriate comfort or cosiness. What they want is equal treatment and equal opportunities.
As COMKFOR in KOSOVO I have learned that all 36 KFOR troop-contributing nations had female personnel in their contingents and employed them in their armed forces following their national policies.
First lesson learned: The female soldiers are on a par with their male comrades.
And second: The number of women in any one unit made no difference concerning the tasking of the units placed under my command.
The reason is clear. The pressure of the mission to be accomplished didn´t allow for any distinctions.
Where men and women are tasked to fulfill the same mission alongside each other, the demands I made on them were always at the same level.
It was rather the character of an individual and not his or her gender that decided how tasks were accomplished.
Another word to choices and chances. Allow me to speak about one observation, having met that many excellent servicewomen in my career.
More than once I learned, that women in military service had to prove their skills and knowledge more often and more convincingly than their male comrades, in order to reach high ranking military positions.
On my troop visits I have met a variety of units, staff and headquarters. My assessment:
Generally speaking, I have found that the atmosphere is definitely positive where women are serving as well, where female soldiers are completely integrated.
Now, let me put this into the perspective of the Bundeswehr Operations Command.
To start with a brief background.
With its establishment in 2001, the Bundeswehr Operations Command has been assigned this mission: "The Bundeswehr Operations Command plans and commands German Armed Forces operations within the national context, below the level of the Federal Ministry of Defense."
The Bundeswehr Operations Command is located very close to the political and military executive in BERLIN, our MOD and Government.
The political decision to deploy German military personnel to operations abroad is made by the German Federal Government. However, any pertaining decision is still subject to parliamentary approval by the German Bundestag. Subsequently, the Federal Ministry of Defense issues military-strategic directives the Bundeswehr Operations Command at the operational level has to translate into orders and/or adequate military action guidelines for all the Commanders of the Contingents.
The detailed operational tasks to the deployed forces are issued by their multinational headquarters, either NATO, EU or UN.
The Bundeswehr Operations Command has somewhat the same structure as many multinational headquarters.
The so-called Operations Headquarters, or OHQ, represents the nucleus for the possible build-up to a multinational strategic-level headquarters of the European Union. All divisions integrate personnel from the different services and branches for accomplishing the joint mission.
A total of 800 military and civilian personnel are serving in the Bundeswehr Operations Command, including its HQ & Signal Battalion. This includes 20 female soldiers.
The Bundeswehr Operations Command is the only national agency to issue directives and orders concerning the contingents and the only national point of contact for all commanders of German contingents deployed in operations abroad. This ensures not only the unity of command out of one hand - mine. This also entails the undivided burden of responsibility for the fate of all men and women in the contingents abroad.
At the moment, the Bundeswehr has personnel deployed in the following areas shown in the slide:
Since 1996, German personnel have been serving in BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, under the former NATO-led operation SFOR which became the EU Operation ALTHEA in December 2004.
Under this operation the German Bundeswehr contributes 1,100 personnel, including 50 female soldiers, to the Multinational Task Force Southeast, in which Germany closely cooperates mainly with France, Italy and Spain.
The ALTHEA mission is tasked with preventing hostilities between the different ethnic groups and guaranteeing a secure environment in the country.
As seen here, our women serve in all kinds of functions: be it as a member of a MP Close Protection Team, as an administrator of command and control systems or in providing medic supply even under alpine conditions in remote areas.
I will now turn to KOSOVO.
The German Bundeswehr contributes 2,600 military personnel, including 81 female soldiers, to the NATO-led operation KFOR in KOSOVO. Within the area of operations for the Multinational Brigade South-West Germany closely cooperates with Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Austrian and Swiss forces. I think, concerning KOSOVO I have already made my points.
The contingent is tasked with supporting UNMIK, provide a safe and secure environment in KOSOVO, carrying out border monitoring and supporting the work of international organisations.
Turning to another theatre of operations. Since 2001, the Federal Republic of Germany has been contributing to the NATO-led ISAF operation conducted in assistance of AFGHANISTAN. Currently, the Bundeswehr has deployed forces in KABUL and the North-Eastern provinces of AFGHANISTAN.
You may recall the mission, ISAF is tasked with supporting the Afghan interim government in maintaining a secure environment in KABUL and surrounding areas.
In addition, the TERMEZ operational wing operates an Air Transport Base in UZBEKISTAN. In KABUL, there are 1,700 German personnel placed under the national command of the Bundeswehr Operations Command POTSDAM. This includes 54 female soldiers.
KUNDUZ and FEYZABAD are the locations of the two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) provided by the German Federal Government in an inter-agency effort.
They are tasked with maintaining contact with local representatives, carrying out civil-military cooperation and contributing to the protective security support for the elections in September 2005. The Bundeswehr provides the military element of the PRTs, i. e. a total of 400 service members to include 17 female soldiers, to guarantee the security of the PRT, perform typical military tasks and support the civilian element of the PRT through organic Bundeswehr capabilities.
Likewise in the Balkans we have to work with Muslims. Especially in AFGHANISTAN, this region shaped by Islamic traditions, the adequate employment of female soldiers is indispensable. Having said this I would like to emphasize a particular aspect of women serving on such operations:
It is a fact that in particular in peacekeeping and peace-enforcing operations, likewise where nation-building is concerned, women are needed in the front line. That is necessary as members of patrols and in attendance at checkpoints. In particular where other religions or social systems prevail, and the traditional role of men and women is considerably different to our national perception, the presence of female soldiers is imperative. Be it for the purpose of conducting body searches on women at checkpoints or, in the field of CIMIC, of establishing contact with a local family. A great deal of sensitiveness is required in such matters which should be dealt with on the "woman-to-woman" basis, in order to be successful. Confidence-building is crucially dependent on whether we can offer a female dialogue partner or not.
As I am aware, on occasion of your last annual conference in Brussels you have already met Ms. Susanne Bruns, one of our female military psychologists who presented to you some insight into these issues.
I will now turn to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, i n the area of operations at the Horn of Africa, Germany has been contributing a naval contingent since 2001.
The mission is monitoring and controlling traffic in the maritime operations area and guaranteeing security escort for high-value transport ships.
At present t hree out of the 242 service members are female. This seems to be a problem for small units. In my opinion there should never be a single woman in a unit, I sense two is a minimum. Let me give you two reasons:
1. Sometimes everyone needs a person of the same gender to talk to, and
2. If there is only one female person among a huge number of male fellow soldiers she might be in the position of a female “cock of the walk”.
Last but not least the German Bundeswehr is also contributing to UN observer missions. First, the UNOMIG mission in GEORGIA. It is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement made between GEORGIA and ABKHAZIA.
German military observers and Medical Personnel are contributing to peace-supporting actions of all parties involved, i. e. the Georgian central government, Abkhazia, CIS peacekeeping forces and stationed forces of the Russian Federation.
In addition there is UNMEE in ETHIOPIA and ERITREA. It is just accidental that at the moment we do not have any female soldiers on these missions.
Our task is to contribute to monitor the demilitarized zone between the two states.
For the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in SUDAN (UNMIS) Germany plans to contribute with up to 50 military observers.
Another challenge was the worldwide help for the TSUNAMI victims. After the devastating seaquake in Southeast Asia the German Bundeswehr provided humanitarian aid at the Northern tip of SUMATRA island.
Under this recently completed operation, the Bundeswehr had operated a modern field hospital in the very centre of the disaster area, assisted in the rehabilitation of the destroyed BANDAH ACEH Hospital, while providing the capabilities of a combat support ship to support these activities. This operation with the main focus on the medical service involved particularly many female soldiers since their qualification and expert knowledge recommended them for this kind of mission.
Here some impressions.
Thus, the Bundeswehr Operations Command is responsible for around 6,500 personnel in 7 operations on three continents (plus another 23,000 soldiers at the same time either preparing for missions or undergoing post-deployment debriefing). On average, out of this number 4 per cent, i. e. 200 personnel are female. The details are shown on the following slide.
The percentage of female soldiers in the Bundeswehr is roundabout 6 %. In operations abroad it is sometimes lower and sometimes higher which is due to the fact, that if the share of medical personnel is large – like it was in South-East Asia - the number of female personnel is higher. In all operations, as well as in Germany, I have come to appreciate the high motivation and qualification of female soldiers. And this observation is independent of rank or grade. I would also take the opportunity to appeal to you: Whether you want it or not, in operations abroad, in particular in Islamic countries, you are setting an example for the local female population as regards emancipation and independence, but you are also in the focus of the male population. Under these conditions it may prove very difficult to adequately conduct yourself. What is required here is sensitivity as regards behaviour and dress. So, it may happen that a commander has to treat subordinate personnel "unequally", just because of gender. This is by no means a discrimination but rather a necessity to demonstrate respect and appreciation of different cultures. Let me give you an example: It is not a good idea to wear shorts in such an area, because it is an unacceptable behaviour for females – like it would be in the famous church of St. Peter in Rome.
To summarize, I would not present an either positive or negative valuation of my experience with regard to female soldiers in an operational environment. What female soldiers want is equal treatment and equal opportunities. Women are an obvious integral part of the armed forces and fulfil their tasks adequately being soldiers among soldiers. In certain situations as described above the female element is nevertheless indispensable. You have to find the soldier best suitable for the task, no matter whether man or women. Qualification is the decisive criterion, and the only one! Thank you for your attention.
Now I am open for your questions.