Women vets now more likely to have seen combat: study

WASHINGTON Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:51pm EST

U.S. soldiers serving in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo take part in an exercise session with Billy Wayne Blanks, the inventor of Tae Bo exercise program, at the military camp Bondsteel in Sojevo, southeast of Kosovo's capital Pristina, January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Hazir Reka

U.S. soldiers serving in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo take part in an exercise session with Billy Wayne Blanks, the inventor of Tae Bo exercise program, at the military camp Bondsteel in Sojevo, southeast of Kosovo's capital Pristina, January 17, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Hazir Reka

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. women veterans of the post-9/11 era are far more likely to have seen combat than their predecessors and are more critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than male counterparts, according to a study released on Thursday.

Among living veterans from any era, only 15 percent of women served in combat, compared with 35 percent of men, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Since the 1990s, with a change in policies and the decade-long wars, combat exposure has risen from 7 percent among pre-1990 female veterans to 24 percent of female veterans who have served since 1990.

But while 19 percent of servicemen are in the infantry, guncrews or are seamen, only 3 percent of servicewomen are in these roles. Active-duty women are concentrated in administrative and medical positions, the study said.

Women are banned from serving in ground units where combat is the main role, but Defense Department policies that began in the 1990s allowed women to serve in more combat-related roles, such as flying in combat aircraft and serving aboard combat ships.

Demographically, 31 percent of active-duty women are black compared with only 16 percent of men. A smaller share of active-duty women than men are white, 53 percent for women against 71 percent for men.

Military women are less likely than their male counterparts to be married (46 percent vs 58 percent). Women who marry are much more likely than men to wed someone who is also in the active-duty military, by 48 percent to 7 percent.

Sixty-three percent of women veterans say the Iraq war was not worth fighting and 54 percent say Afghanistan has not been worth it. Among male veterans, the results are 47 percent and 39 percent, respectively.

Among the general public, there are no significant differences by sex in the share who say the post-9/11 wars were not worth fighting.

Since 1973, when the United States military ended conscription, the number of active-duty enlisted women has grown from about 42,000 to 167,000.

Since the enlisted force has shrunk substantially over the same period, women's share in the enlisted military has increased to 14 percent from 2 percent.

The report was based on data from the Department of Defense and on surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Census Bureau.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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Comments (3)
Reuters_12 wrote:
Maybe I missed the memo, but the last time I checked, women still were not allowed to be placed in combat, a field limited as much as possible to men. Also, women had lower physical strength and stamina requirements placed on them when they went through basic training.

I’m wondering how many of those women in the military, particularly those who are critical of the wars, had the opportunity to meet the natives? When combat men expand on their approval of the wars, they seem to mention as justification their experience with the people.

Dec 22, 2011 10:31am EST  --  Report as abuse
wody wrote:
Gosh! There must be a glass ceiling when it comes to war as well.

Dec 22, 2011 10:39am EST  --  Report as abuse
RB007 wrote:
You needed a study to figure this out.Hire some people with some common sense.

Dec 22, 2011 10:49am EST  --  Report as abuse
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