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Women in the Armed Forces

By Sgt. Henrique Vale
First published in
SFOR Informer #82, March 1, 2000

Zetra - Italian soldiers of the Sassari Brigade (North Brigade), who are currently undergoing many changes due to restructuring, recently received a seminar on the role of women in the Armed Forces. Indeed, this question arrives at a time when the Italian forces have opened their military academy doors to females. Currently, there are 294 promotion positions for female officers. Brig. Gen. Guiseppe Sabatelli welcomed 47 students from Sardinia and nine female soldiers from SFOR to answer the students questionson the subject. The seminar was organised by Lt Col. (CA) Dorothy Cooper, SFOR Provost Marshal and chief of J3 Force Protection. Lt Col. Matteo Bebbeve Giovanni presented the seminar in three parts: a presentation of Italian recruiting; an illustration of the woman's role in the Italian Armed Forces; and a debate between students, their professors, and visiting SFOR soldiers.

The discussion began with what convinces a woman to enter into the army. "Representing my country and wearing my uniform with honour are the two main incentives that I had," explained Sgt. Lorraine Crooks of the US Marine Corps. The issue of femininity in a profession such as this one was brought up very quickly. All soldiers were convinced that they were able to remain feminine in this profession, adding with a bit of humour that hairstyles were an example of individual taste.

Questions of complications surrounding the rights of child bearing were also posed during the seminar. Responding to those questions, German Capt. Sibyl Pichmann, a physician at the field hospital in Rajlovac, said: "There is a period of maternity leave in the military, just as in all civil professions, and that time is by no means limited." During the discussions they also expressed confidence in their training and reaction capabilities,csiting experiences in Cuba, Lebanon, South Korea, and Northern Ireland as proof of those capabilities. The example of local women who fought on the front line during the war here also illustrated the competence of female soldiers. To close the debate, they shared what they have learned in the past, as well as what they have learned during their tour here while assigned to SFOR's peace stabilisation force. "I served six years in Europe and in South Korea. Through those challenges, and this one, I have learned the importance of team work, tolerance, and co-operation," said U.S. Col. Deborah Beckworth, intelligence officer.