WASHINGTON — Female soldiers face rampant sexism, harassment and other gender-related challenges in male dominated Army special operations units, according to a report Monday, eight years after the Pentagon opened all combat jobs to women.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command, in a lengthy study, reported a wide range of “overtly sexist” comments from male soldiers, including a broad aversion to females serving in commando units. The comments, it said, are “not outliers” but represent a common sentiment that women don’t belong on special operations teams.
“The idea that women are equally as physically, mentally and emotionally capable to perform majority of jobs is quite frankly ridiculous,” said one male commenter. Others said they’d quit before serving on a team with a female, and that serving in such a situation it would create problems and jealousy among their wives.
The blunt and sometimes crass comments ring familiar to many who have watched the difficult transition as women moved into the military’s front line combat jobs. And they paint a disturbing, challenging picture for leaders.
The exhaustive report surveyed more than 5,000 people assigned to Army special operations forces units, including 837 female troops, 3,238 male troops and the rest defense civilians.
It revealed that “the vast majority” of the negative attitudes toward women serving in special operations “unfortunately did come from senior noncommissioned officers. So it does seem to indicate that it is generational,” Command Sgt. Maj. JoAnn Naumann, the most senior enlisted soldier in the command, said in a call with reporters Monday about the findings.
However the negative sentiments revealed the 2023 report echo sharp opposition voiced by special operations troops across the services in 2015, when surveyed on whether women should serve in the dangerous commando jobs. Later that year, in a landmark decision, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter