Neutering the Army’s ‘Warrior Culture’

soldiers cheesecakeIn an epochal change in late 2011, Labor’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced that virtually all remaining military restrictions on women in combat would be lifted before 2016. Women in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) are now available to kill or be killed at the bleeding edge

This followed the ADF’s own announcement in April, 2011, to the same effect. Those signing off on it were General David Hurley, Chief of the Defence Force; Navy chief Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs; Army chief Lt-Gen David Morrison (current Australian of the Year); Air Force chief Air Marshall Geoff  Brown; and Major-General Gerard Fogarty, Head, People Capability. Hurley began it:

After thirty-five years in the Infantry, I know the rigours of life as an infantryman. My decision to support the opening of combat positions in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to women comes from experience and knowledge … A robust and agile ADF relies on every member having the opportunity to contribute fully and equally to Defence operations and capability.

We all share the responsibility to work towards a fair, just and inclusive ADF. After all, gender equality is the whole community’s responsibility.

The statement was emphatic that standards would not be lowered for women’s entry. It was accompanied by a “Risk Management Plan” of high formality but  little substance (maybe the nitty-gritty details are for military-eyes only). Meanwhile, Defence got a new employee, a “permanent full-time cultural change manager to assist with implementing cultural change within Army.”

Concurrently, the government tapped  the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, a lawyer, to do annual reports on discrimination against females in Defence. As might be expected from someone of her legal background, she endorsed the brass’ deal in a sentence of two, then swung back to hundreds of pages of public service trivia about gender pay gaps, leave and flexiwork.[1]

Part I: Attack of the Gender Warriors

Broderick’s thoughts on military life began with the complaint that the 86% of males in the Defence Force were evidencing excessive “masculine norms”, thus neglecting their “feminine side”. In an exercise that mixed reverse-sexism with pitiful sarcasm, she wrote

Men should always ‘be a winner’. Men should be ‘tough’ both physically and emotionally. Men should never be seen to be in any way feminine or acknowledge their ‘feminine side’. They should be ‘a man’s man’ – one of the boys.

Such male bastions weren’t “the types of environments in which healthy, respectful attitudes towards women are likely to thrive” and, thus, correctives should come from the top and middle. Thus challenged by a warrior feminist, Hurley folded like a cheap card table, and rushed to begin his forces’ feminization. [2] Broderick  seems unaware that the appropriate environment for warfare training involves encouraging troops to put their lives in danger while grasping that it is their duty to kill those on the other side. This is a horrible job and not everyone is capable of doing it. To instead put soldiers—men or women—in this role to meet a political objective, or to gratify feminists, seems extremely dangerous.[3]

The Gillard Era announcement caused barely a ripple at the time, and to this day the change is treated as just another nod to female equality. The politically correct class, including the Anglicans who’ve draped a huge “Let’s welcome all refugees” sign from the spire of Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral, seem less interested in what happens to women soldiers’ minds and bodies on the literal front line.  Major General Gerard Fogarty, managing the process, boasted 18 months after the announcement,  “We’ve had very little criticism from any segment of the community.”

Once, men went to war while women kept the home fires burning. What was good enough for Odysseus and Penelope is now passé, and the casualty lists are reading differently. US servicewomen who came home to their toddlers in body bags include Lori Ann Piestwa 23, mother of two pre-schoolers, Melissa J. Hobart, 22, mother of a 3-year-old; Jessica L Cawvey 22, single mother of a 6yo; Pamela Osborne 38, mother of three; and Katrina Bell-Johnson, 32, mother of a one-year-old.

Part of the community silence in Australia must surely be because the physical entry standards are so high very few women have managed to pass them. Indeed, the standards were tightened, rather than loosened, concurrent with the announcement, and embodied in the new Physical Employment Standards (PES).[4]  About 30% of women Army recruits were flunking the easier test, ten times the male flunk rate. The PES are supposed to be a  health-and-safety initiative to “ensure that we don’t hurt anyone”, as Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Conroy put it; pity our potential enemies don’t concur.

The policy for equal combat for women evolved python-like from an Australia-ratified UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1983. Originally, we put in get-out clauses exempting women from combat, but those have been progressively abandoned. The UN General Assembly is dominated by corrupt Third World blocs whose style is actually more inclined to burka-enforcing and female genital mutilation than combating discrimination against women.[5] The Gillard announcement came on September 27, 2011, but the nuts and bolts weren’t endorsed by Cabinet until June, 2012. The doors opened to women across the board on January 1, 2013, and those changes are to be fully phased in (technically) from next year, as of June 30.

In the Army, the new categories for women include infantry, tanks, artillery, bomb disposal and combat engineers. In the Navy, women divers are welcome to tackle mines, while Air Force women serve in cockpits, control centres and as airfield guards.

Defence watchdog Australia Defence Association says any weakening of traditional infantry-type standards, and introduction of gender targets and weaponry to suit women, would be deadly, irresponsible and immoral. But if standards were maintained pre and post-transfer, there would be no issue with psychological/emotional/social relating to women in the tough squads and deployments, it said.[6] This contrasts with my reading of numerous US studies emphatically stating the opposite. For example, corrosive jealousies among males in previously well-bonded units can arise whether or not a female comrade is sexually active.

The ADA continues that women should be allowed to opt in or out of fiercely hazardous combat tasks, but confuses itself while simultaneously baffling observers by stating that males can’t opt out. So where’s the gender equality? How can field commanders plan for combat if some soldiers have a choice about whether to become involved? Imagine the resentment among male soldiers if the dirty work always falls to them.

Broderick speaks of modern warfare involving new technological skills “rather than simply manual or physical strength”, as if any front-liner — an artillery trooper, for instance — can be quarantined from huge exertions. She wants the women-friendly squads to be hand-picked to ensure women are treated well, and there should be “no less than two women in each work section of ten or less, with the grouping of women within a category to achieve as close to a critical mass as possible.”[7]   More than that, she also wants to lift more women up the chain of command and achieve this goal by means of quota, not equal treatment (so far, about 5% senior officers are women and 8% of NCOs).Quotas are a common technique of the Left to get their favorites into powerful positions when they cannot get there by ability.

Broderick disparages the front-line “warrior culture” and “war-fighting mission” as barriers to accepting that women can make good combat troops. By her reckoning,  less warrior culture in the Army would be a good thing! [8] Further, the promotion of women should not require combat experience , as “leadership” and “ability” are enough.

Strong ADF leaders should come from a range of ADF occupations not just the combat corps… Though indisputably important, a lack of combat experience is just one of a range of obstacles to women’s career progression…

She concedes combat experience lets ‘real’ (male) soldiers gain the respect and regard of their peers, in turn cementing their authority as leaders. But she countered that line of reasoning by insisting that more than 40% of Australian women veterans reported past exposure to “hostile action”. That could mean anything. To get around combat-bias among promotion board members, she urges “diversity” on promotions boards (women? Indigenes? Muslims?) and even seeks to install non-military members, tasked with helping the original and befuddled board members reach her idea of correct targets for high-ranking women. Says one military critic in correspondence with the author: “I’m buggered if I’d jump out of the trench on the say-so of someone who has spent their life shuffling paper. Orders from a Patton or a Montgomery — they’re different.”

As to Broderick’s specific suggestions, she wants the  Army, Navy and Air Force to start with a model squad involving not less than two women in a unit of ten people “with clustering of women within a category to achieve as close to a critical mass as possible.” In a bizarre example, she laments the lack of women  mine-clearance divers, asserting that frogwomen would inspire many other women to join them. Similarly, they should be appointed to “key roles”, such as army combat officers in infantry and armour.  Alarmingly, she seems to labour under the misconception that “non-combat” officers include those attached to the artillery and engineers.[9] For soeone with such sweeping plans to “reform” the military it seems passing strange that she is unaware of Coral Fire Support Base near Saigon in 1968 being partly over-run by North Vietnamese regulars. One soldier who cracked under pressure had to be handcuffed to a stake behind the gun line to keep him out of the way.[10]

The new, gender-liberated combat roles would never attract more than 4% of female recruits, Broderick theorises. She continues, “But we are doing this because, to sustain the workforce into the future, we want to access our fair share of the talent in the Australian labour market, which is increasingly female.” So women are to fight and die to help the ADF  improve its recruiting, and those recruits may well be slotted into roles they can’t handle, endangering themselves and their comrades, male and female alike.

She has little to say about sexual shenanigans with women among testosterone-fuelled men, but quotes some conservative male officers on the topic. They told her they feared to discipline women because female underlings might retaliate with sexual harassment claims. (This is a serous issue in civilian employment as well). One officer said that when he told a woman she was no good at her job, she went up the line with complaints and left him “shit scared”. “Since then,” he lamented, “I won’t speak to a female one-on-one.” Another suggested why bonding in combat units is necessarily weak in mixed-gender units: males sleep in their own tents separate from women; men are also reluctant to relax with them in case something said is misinterpreted.

In middle ranks, as the US experience has demonstrated, the ban on sexual relations within a unit are often (if not usually) viewed as a challenge to be circumvented. In any year, 10% of US servicewomen have an accidental pregnancy, twice the national average. In the Gulf War, despite an official and total ban on sexual fraternisation, 5% of deployed servicewomen got pregnant. In Australia, policy-makers simply don’t know how much sex goes on during training and operations and what disruptions to unit cohesiveness result.[11]

Anne Summers in a piece on women soldiers in The Monthly, inadvertently made the case against mixed-gender military squads by noting that women are not always acculturated to tough locales, such as misogynist Arab backwaters. She cites Matina Jewell, who a decade ago was a  uniformed Australian officer with UN peacekeepers in Lebanon. Summers writes, “A [Lebanese] civilian leeringly masturbated in front of her … She is critical of the lack of support she received from her superiors.” Her Australian commander “confirmed to (her) that he did not believe that the incidents was significant enough to report”.  (A fortnight earlier she had been grabbed in daylight by two would-be rapists but kicked them off).  Jewell in her  book, Caught in the Crossfire, says the flasher was identified as a local nutter and pervert. Jewell went into distinguished retirement as a major in 2009 after war injuries and, make no mistake, is a credit to our country. Pardon me if I feel a little sympathy for her then-commander, who is still getting stick some ten years later for not having rated her complaint about the pervert as high official priority. Would a male soldier have demanded official follow-up, one wonders, if he had been propositioned by a gay harasser?

A retired military-sector chief  says: ‘Will full integration give us the capability to kill more enemy soldiers?’ Malcolm Turnbull, Lt-General Morrison, and the Human Rights crowd would find that question offensive and disgusting. But what else are infantry for?”

Summing up, Australia’s new policy of killer female soldiers has been launched but is so far having no positive effect, with significant potential for distracting the Defence Force from its primary mission of defending Australia.

The Sisterhood and its Defence acolytes and enablers will, in my view, shortly be campaigning to drop entry standards to elite jobs to make the policy work their way. You read it here first.

Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here, I Hope


[1] To the extent that skilled members who quit cost the forces well over $600,000, she has a point that work conditions should be positive.

[2] As changes drive down from the top, the lower Defence bureaucracy has become a seething mass of clerical political correctness, e.g. “The Review has also been advised that the Values, Behaviour and Resolution Branch (formerly Fairness and Resolution Branch) informally considers every new piece of policy from a gender and general diversity perspective, as part of the new formal process by which all Defence Instructions are developed and periodically reviewed.”

Another comment from a Broderick appendix reads that these clerks had formulated an Action Plan for diversity, including social networking and a “Young Female Leaders Network”.  It continued, hilariously, “Although in April 2011 progress against these tasks was reported as ‘good’, in November 2011, the position was that none of these tasks have been completed.”

[3]   A search on the word “combat” in one 72-page Broderick opus turns up virtually nothing except a few anodyne sentences — brain-snaps urging women into combat.


[4] The old tests involved a 2.4km run plus push-ups etc, adjusted according to age and gender. The new tests have no age or gender allowances, for example soldiers must march 5km in full kit in 55 minutes, then carry two 22kg jerry cans of water for 150m as proxy for a stretchered casualty. They also have to do fire-and-movement in 12 sets of 6m rushes, and lift 25kg up 1.5m as if loading sandbags or a truck. Infantry tests are tougher still –   and special forces tests, extreme.


[5] The 2013 UN President John Ashe (Antigua ) is currently indicted on $US1.3m bribe-related charges.

  • [6] “Arguments commonly mounted to oppose female participation on psychological or emotion grounds are invariably incorrect factually or conceptually. Similarly, most social and cultural arguments posed against broadening female participation in combat roles have been disproven by ADF and allied experience gained in existing mixed-gender units.”

[7] After all her fuss about sex harassment in the forces, Broderick had to quote a   survey by a female officer demonstrating that the 25%-of-women rate was the same in the forces as in the general community. As her “urgent priority” she secured installation of a top-level anti-harassment bureaucracy, “reporting directly to the Chief of the Defence Force”

[8] A  Canadian official report she quotes says more cautiously:

“Hyper-masculinity appears to be deeply embedded in combat unit culture and plays an important if unmeasured role. Constructive change in combat units will involve more than ‘tweaking’ current training to strip proscribed ‘masculine’ manifestations and reproducing the mixed culture of support units which is unproven in sustaining close battle. Battles and wars are won by cohesion. The fact that cohesion in mixed support units has proven sufficient for supporting roles is not proof that the same culture will be adequate for those whose job is to kill and maim at close quarters.  If manifestations of hyper-masculinity are simply treated as misogyny and dogmatically prohibited without persuasive explanation and this is allowed to be understood by male soldiers as emasculation of their established combat identity, the consequence may be at odds with intent: resentment, demoralisation and clandestine ostracism of women.”


[9] * “In Army–Combat Officer roles including Infantry Officers and Armoured Officers; non-combat officers including Field Artillery Officers and Engineer Officers.”


[10] Personal communication with ex-Vietnam Major, 13/2/16

11 thoughts on “Neutering the Army’s ‘Warrior Culture’

  • mburke@pcug.org.au says:

    (10) – If this refers to the Gunner O’Neill case, the version we heard during contemporary officer military law training was a lot more complicated than the simple statement that he was hand-cuffed to a stake behind the gun-line. His OC was acquited in his subsequent highly politicised court martial by higher commanders smart enough to have “condoned” his alleged behaviour. No one wins when civilians meddle in military affairs, no matter how well meaning they are. When the civilians are zealots on a mission like Broderick and her band of raging “frightbats”, the outcome will inevitably be disastrous for the defence of this country, not to mention social harmony.

  • Jody says:

    Welcome to the world of Gen X and Y and how the world is going to increasingly appear in the near future. It will take all the energy that conservatives from the same generation can muster to turn this horror around. Thank God, I won’t be here.

    • PT says:

      Jody, Morrison, Smith, Gillard and that “lawyer” aren’t Gen X or Y. The so called “2nd wave feminism” which unleashed this stuff was born in the early ’70’s.

  • ellenbraddock says:

    Although it comes from a movie, the line “We’re here to defend democracy, not practice it!” sums up the purpose of the armed forces, and their nature if they are to fulfill that purpose.

  • rh@rharrison.com says:

    Tony, you seem to have assumed that the culture warriors meddling with our Defence Force think that their changes will improve the performance of the ADF. Perhaps you are just being kind to them, but an assumption that their real motive is to degrade our defence capabilities is more consistent with the known facts.

    • ellenbraddock says:

      I suspect that they are indifferent to the performance of the ADF. They see it as just another business, in yet another industry, onto which their agenda must be imposed.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Comment from Tony Thomas

    I have received the following feedback:
    “General Hurley: ‘After thirty-five years in the Infantry, I know the rigours of life as an infantryman.’

    The issue here is that he spent the first 25 years in “the infantry” during the post-Vietnam period: “the infantry” never actually did anything apart from a brief trip to Somalia (where the only casualty was a KIA accidently shot by a colleague).

    He would certainly know all about the “rigors of life as an infantryman” in a non-operational, peace-time, environment.
    That leads on to the notion of the so-called “three block” war – “block” as in City block.

    In the first “block” the infantry is conducting a peacekeeping activity, keeping the local factions apart.

    In the second “block” the infantry is conducting anti-insurgency operations. Like Vietnam: often a long way from base, crapping in a plastic bag, regular fire-fights, carrying everything, many small independent and self-sufficient units (if you’re not self-sufficient then you die) and living in a swamp just waiting for the bad guys to come along so you can call in an artillery strike (if you allowed to do that these days)

    In the third “block” the infantry is conducting a full-blown combat operation: e.g. the marines in Fallujah: the most intense combat operation by a Western military since the Tet Offensive (Vietnam again). The ADF has not conducted this type of operation since 1943.

    The girls would probably do quite well in the first “block”, but it is the same combat unit that would be tasked with operations in the second and third “blocks”.

    That’s the problem.”

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    I served briefly with David Hurley and he is a dedicated soldier and a good man. He is a victim of the times and getting promoted requires playing the game by the rules set by non-soldiers.

    I have the feeling (my feminine side) that Broderick might actually believe that the enemy, whoever it is, will play by our rules similarly to international corporate law. She hasn’t the faintest idea about the bonds that make a unit effective. Maybe she could convince the AFL or NRL to have mixed football teams. All the players in the scrum would have to be of the one sex so there was no accidental rubbing which could be construed as sexual in nature.

    Broderick is a prime example of a dipstick fruitcake and the military that takes notice of her are little better. The ones who should be court martialled are the politicians who began this ridiculous and dangerous experiment and those who lack the courage to stop it now. Turnbull, are you listening?

  • bemartin39@bigpond.com says:

    One is left speechless, dumbstruck after reading this article and the previous essay on the same subject by the same author last Tuesday. Excuse the tautology, but it is mind boggling.

    Elizabeth Broderick, being a woman and a lawyer to boot, is perfectly qualified to pronounce on matters military. It would be misogynist in the extreme to suggest otherwise. Her obvious expertise on the subject is amply demonstrated by her sarcastic criticism of manhood in the defence force:

    “Men should always ‘be a winner’. Men should be ‘tough’ both physically and emotionally. Men should never be seen to be in any way feminine or acknowledge their ‘feminine side’. They should be ‘a man’s man’ – one of the boys.”

    Being an old, white man, sadly out of touch with “progressive morality”, this writer enthusiastically believes that the defence of the country is best served by men derided by Broderick’s supercilious words.

  • gardner.peter.d says:

    ‘gender equality’ is an oxymoron. There are two genders. They are distinct from each other. That is why they are not equal. They are different for a good reason: evolution over millions of years has found that genes survive better, usually through heterosexual reproduction, because of this difference. Characterisitcs of the female and male need to be different because a greater capability in one area for one of the sexes can complement other capabilities being greater in the other. No genes have found making both sexes of equal capability in all areas has increased survivabiity of the genes. Just accept it.

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