Female IDF soldiers had problems lifting tank shells during pilot

Report comes in anticipation of Supreme Court appeal

IDF tanks along the Gaza border  (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF tanks along the Gaza border
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Military officers have voiced concern over difficulties female soldiers have faced during a pilot program, which could have a negative effect on the IDF’s project of integrating women into the Armored Corps.
The concerns were raised in anticipation of an appeal to the Supreme Court that the IDF continue the pilot program, which would see female soldiers join the Armored Corps for the first time in the country’s history and be stationed along the border.
According to a Ynet report, a military source familiar with the pilot program said some of the women taking part had difficulties loading shells and faced mental hurdles while taking part in operations.
In September, 19-year-old Or Abramson from the settlement of Karnei Shomron and Maayan Halberstadt of Jerusalem filed a petition seeking to have the military explain why women are barred from serving as tank drivers, gunners, radio operators and commanders.
Their petition, which calls for the Supreme Court to change regulations to allow women to serve in frontline combat positions, claims that the army’s refusal to let them serve in tanks is a substantial violation of equal rights.
The IDF announced in June that the military had successfully completed a pilot program to train women in tanks to integrate women into combat roles in the Armored Corps. But in April the military announced that despite the successful pilot program, women would not be able to serve in the corps.
According to the military, the decision to freeze the project was taken based on a situational assessment of the Ground Forces, which found that the next stage of the pilot program “would require significantly more manpower and resources to undertake” and that it was decided instead to strengthen other existing coed combat units.
The IDF said the reason for the decision was the cost-benefit calculations of the separate training and allocation of combat units and not the physical abilities of the female soldiers.
But in August, chief Armored Corps officer Brig.-Gen. Guy Hasson said the military’s decision was not final and the attempt to integrate female combat soldiers into their own tanks had not been dropped from the agenda.
The main focus of the pilot program was the physical abilities of the female recruits, who are divided into teams led by a male soldier commanding a Merkava Mark III tank. Throughout all phases of the program, the recruits were accompanied by experienced tank commanders, doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts.
The pilot program began with 15 female recruits beginning basic training in the South, with two recruits dropping out just after two weeks. The 13 remaining recruits then moved to Shizafon where they were divided into three squads headed by a senior tank commander, completing their tank training on the Mark III.
Ten of the recruits who began the course and completed it successfully were deployed to the Egyptian border with Division 80, and four of them became tank commanders. One of the first female tank commanders, 20-year-old Sgt. Charlotte Peled-Davidovitch, made aliyah from England two years ago.
The IDF stated that even if the pilot program is deemed successful, there would be no mixed-gender tank crews, and female tank crews will not be part of battalions that would operate in enemy territory; they would instead only be deployed to the borders.