IDF: Rise in Women Recruits Expressing Interest in Combat Roles

Currently, 3% of women serve in combat, 12.5% in offices; 20% rank lieutenant-colonel or higher.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Israeli soldiers in Caracal battalion on 23km (14.3-mile) march marking end of their training, near Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, February 14, 2013.
Israeli soldiers in Caracal battalion on 23km (14.3-mile) march marking end of their training, near Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, February 14, 2013. Credit: Reuters
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Three-quarters of the women in the latest group of recruits to Israel’s armed forces expressed interest in serving in combat units, a rise over past numbers, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Releasing the data on International Women’s Day on Sunday, the IDF did not elaborate on the report. The March 2015 class expressed slightly more interest over the year-earlier group, when 74.7 percent of women said they were ready to serve in combat units.

According to data from 2013, about 3 percent of women serve in combat roles, while 12.5 percent do office work. The number of female combat soldiers rose by 500 between 2012 and 2014, mainly in the Border Police, the Home Front Command and the coed Caracal combat battalion.

Women make up 20 percent of officers at the rank of lieutenant-colonel or higher. According to the army’s personnel branch, senior female officers have great potential to advance within the military.

Combat soldiers drafted in March are the last group to serve three mandatory years. Starting with the next class in July, combat soldiers will serve 32 months.

Army officials say shortening the service will pare thousands of soldiers from the IDF. Most of the impact will be felt in 2019, according to the personnel branch, because those doing extended service will be released then.

“A reduction of thousands serving [at that point] will constitute a significant challenge to the combat system,” said a senior personnel officer. “We see benefits to the economy and the impact it will have on GDP, but we need to think how to preserve arrangements among the armed forces.

“Therefore, the army intends, among other things, to shorten the training period for various units, increase the integration of women and expand the scope of female combat soldiers, as well as sign up some of the female combat recruits to serve a number of extra months.”

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