The Military Army Blog

Women serving on British army front line will cause ‘standards to slip’, UUP MLA says

THE lifting of a ban on women serving on the front line in the British army will not make the military “any more effective”, an Ulster Unionist MLA has said. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that he had accepted a recommendation by the head of the British army, General Sir Nick Carter, that women should be able to serve in ‘ground close combat’ roles.

“I have asked that this is implemented as soon as possible,” Mr Cameron said. Doug Beattie, a former Regimental Sergeant Major in the Royal Irish Regiment, admitted the issue is a sensitive one but said could not see how having women on the front line will improve the army’s performance.

The 50-year-old from Portadown, Co Armagh, said: “I fear that entry standards will slip, I fear that cohesion will slip, and I fear that effectiveness will slip”.

“I can’t understand what the net benefit of it is going to be,” he said. “And at the same time I don’t want to make women feel belittled either. I just don’t see what we gain from it.”

The MLA said he did not believe many women would want to take up the new opportunity.

“I think women want to and do play an incredibly important role in our armed forces,” he said. “They do so with extreme bravery and I can do nothing but call them what they are – absolute stars. But I don’t think there’s many women out there who particularly want to be that infantryman who does that day-to-day regime.”

But Hannah Bryce, assistant head of International Security at Chatham House, said the decision to allow women to fight on the front line is long overdue.

“It is important that there are equal opportunities in terms of getting the best people into the army, but also I think there’s an issue of being able to work with our allies who have already made this step,” she said.

“I think it’s quite inconsistent if the British Army are happy to serve alongside women on the front line but not to then allow them within their own military.”

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