After last month’s revelation by the Australian Conservatives that male soldiers are being required to serve double the time of women recruits as combat soldiers, a female Australian soldier, currently serving in Iraq has suggested that there's a struggle to prevent some people being accepted into the ADF for gender or diversity reasons.
The Advertiser reports 29-year-old Rheanna Vehlow – an Immanuel College graduate from Adelaide - has been helping Iraqi Security Forces overseas learn how to handle new M16 assault rifles.
She works with them on different shooting positions and distances, culminating in a competitive shooting competition.
She says the Iraqi forces are well-disciplined and responsive to the Australian training. “They want to learn,” she says.
As for cultural differences she says it’s “definitely a curiosity, a novelty” for them being trained by a woman.
The conversation turns from there into a chat about a comment Australian Conservatives Senator Cory Bernardi recently made, that having women on the frontline was a threat to national security.
“As long as they’re meeting the physical standards … there’s no reason they shouldn’t be included,” Vehlow says. “But we need to maintain our standards across the board. Everyone’s a soldier first.”
“The key is ensuring that across the board we hold everyone accountable to the same standards. If people are being pushed through for gender or diversity reasons that’s going against what we’re trying to uphold.”
Senator Bernardi says he maintains his position that women should not be allowed to serve on the front line in combat roles:
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Picture: Captain Rheanna Vehlow at Camp in Taji, Iraq