It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the transformation of the military is less to do with hardware, and terms such as ‘jointness’ or ‘multidimensional manoeuvre’, but about social and organisational structures.

And that includes the role of women in the military:

But the Iraq insurgency obliterated conventional battle lines. The fight was on every base and street corner, and as the conflict grew longer and more complicated, the all-volunteer military required more soldiers and a different approach to fighting. Commanders were forced to stretch gender boundaries, or in a few cases, erase them altogether.

Perhaps the status, command and roles undertaken by women can be used as one indicator of the evolution of Western militaries beyond the traditional, conventional, Napoleonic paradigm—and even of willingness to engage in the heavy lifting of counter-insurgency.

Brought up as an old-school Army warrior, Mr. Baumann said he had seriously doubted that women could physically handle infantry duties, citing the weight of the armor and the gear, the heat of Baghdad and the harshness of combat.

“I found out differently,” said Mr. Baumann, now chief financial officer for St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota. “Not only could they handle it, but in the same way as males. I would go out on patrols every single day with my battalion. I was with them. I was next to them. I saw with my own eyes. I had full trust and confidence in their abilities.”

Mr. Baumann’s experience rings true to many men who have commanded women in Iraq. More than anything, it is seeing women perform under fire that has changed attitudes.

These are not lessons easily learned, or transformation understood, by militaries that carefully constrain their involvement in such engagements.

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