RAAF’s gender guide for fighter pilots
RAAF pilots are being told to employ a smarter gender perspective on bombing operations, in a doctrine which uses a hypothetical case looking at how destroying a bridge being used by enemy troops would force local women to walk further to fetch firewood and water.
The example is included in a "Gender in Air Operations" doctrine note that is ordering all RAAF personnel to consider their actions through such a viewpoint, which would take into account "gendered social roles'.
But seasoned veterans have warned the politically correct move adds another layer of decision-making that could lead to fatal hesitation in the heat of battle.
The doctrine's foreword by Air Commodore Stephen Edgeley, the RAAF's Director General Strategy and Planning, said embracing the "gender perspective" would enhance operational capability.
It gave the example of what a pilot should think about before dropping any bombs.
"If the military target is a bridge in a community that is being used as a main route by the enemy to transport weapons, this same bridge may also provide the only route for the local population to gather supplies such as water and firewood," said the doctrine.
"Although destroying this target may provide a military advantage against the enemy, the second order effect may mean that, due to the gendered social roles, women need to travel further afield, on unfamiliar and less secure, well-known or well-lit routes to gather water and firewood."
That left the women vulnerable and at "an increased risk of sexual and gender based violence".
Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association NSW/ ACT president, Bruce Relph, warned the dangers in such an approach lay in how quickly simple strategic advantages could be lost in the fast-paced nature of the battlefield: "So you don't blow up the bridge because there are women going over it and three days later you fly back and the enemy has used the bridge to set up air defences to shoot you down."
He said the new doctrine was an attempt by Air Force top brass to "cover their arses" and "make the buck stop with the pilot" if anything went wrong.
"This is going to make the pilot hesitate, afraid he might be charged with war crimes, and that puts his life in danger because the enemy will not be hesitating to shoot him down," he said.
"Defence is pandering to this gender agenda and that is not how wars operate. Wars are cruel."
The document was introduced last year and is being policed by the RAAF's "gender advisers" who accompany RAAF personnel into conflict zones.
It is also being enforced by an online course called "Gender Perspective in Military Operations - Air force", which has been designed to create awareness of the new way of thinking. "This will ensure that every member has received a basic level understanding of gender in military operations during their initial military training, career and, in some cases, specialist training," it said.
The new doctrine also spelled out the difference between sex and gender so that RAAF personnel could apply it on operations. It said sex refers to "biological characteristics" whereas gender was "socially constructed".
"Applying a gender perspective across all stages of operational planning and execution allows for more accurate mission analysis and greater understanding of the operational picture," said the doctrine.
But former army officer Bernard Gaynor said: "It seems the politically correct agenda has yet to reach peak insanity inside Defence.
"Pilots are now required to consider feminist theory before dropping bombs on the enemy. Gender advisers are now deployed on operations.
"We need our Defence Force to train combat warriors, not social justice warriors. The sooner Defence returns to its core business the better."
The Australian Defence Force did not respond to requests for comment.
ADF has 10 full-time gender advisers
The Australian Defence Force has 10 full-time gender advisers "dedicated to the integration" of a gender perspective into all military operations.
It also has 135 ADF and three civilian personnel who have taken the week-long course on how to become a gender adviser in the military.
The senior gender adviser at Headquarters Joint Operations Command last week wrote about the problems of implementing the gender perspective.
Royal Australian Navy Captain Stacey Porter wrote: "Awareness training in Gender 101 is all well and good, but until it's practised on exercises by our troops and assessed for its military effectiveness it will never be mainstreamed."
On the Australian Strategic Policy Institute site, she wrote the ADF had "struggled in the past" with giving examples of how "the way of gender" had led to better operational outcomes. "While the ADF has a very strong commitment to operationalising gender, we struggle with how to implement a gendered perspective and why it's necessary," she wrote.
She added that in future military operations needed to be more "civilian-centric" and take into account "factors we that we've traditionally overlooked, such as climate change".
Captain Porter said "fewer rolling eyes among audiences at pre-deployment briefings" meant the message was getting through, although "there's much work to be done".
However, former army officer Bernard Gaynor said: "What next? I'm guessing operational planners will be required to prepare 'safe spaces' for the transgender community during times of war. None of this helps to protect Australia. Instead, it diverts precious time and resources away from this fundamental duty of our government."
- Matthew Benns