Girl Power

Lieutenant Silje Johansen Willassen has become Norway’s Telemark Battalion’s first female tank commander. This is not the first time that Norway has been ahead of the game regarding women in the armed forces. In 1988 it was the first country to allow women to serve in all combat roles in the military and in 1995, to allow women to serve on military submarines.

America’s first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the US Army’s M1 Armor Crewman School was Sgt Erin Smith in 2016. Female soldiers are to be allowed to join British Army tank crews for the first time this year. The King’s Royal Hussars, Queen’s Royal Hussars, and the Royal Tank Regiment permitted female recruits to begin tank training in January, with around 70 expressing an interest so far.

Russia has a proud history of female combatants where, unlike in other armies around the world, there has never been a separation between military and non-military positions. Aleksandra Grigoryevna Samusenko, born in Ukraine in 1922, was a Soviet tank commander of the T-34 tank.

She was the only female tanker in the 1st Guards Tank Army and was awarded the Order of Patriotic War 1st Class, and the Order of the Red Star for bravery in the Battle of Kursk, 1943, when her tank crew defeated three German Tiger I tanks. Today there are more than 35,000 women working within the Russian armed forces, of which 2,600 are officers and 72 hold commanding positions.