The number of Female Technical Officers in the Ramon Airbase has been persistently rising for a few years, accordingly with the rise in female presence in the whole technical division. Three out of six female technical officers in one of the IAF’s operational bases discussed the matter and asked – when will there be the first female Maintenance Squadron Commander in the IAF?
Capt. Lirit, Lt. Orli Ozeri and Second Lt. Yael Niv, all munitions officers in fighter jet or combat helicopter squadrons, chose to share their perspective on the dilemmas and thoughts behind the data. The integration of women in the IAF, motherhood and a military career, a woman’s place in a male environment and the big question: will we soon see a female Maintenance Squadron Commander?
“The challenge isn’t physical, it has to do with mentality and authority”
“The physical gap exists, it is superfluous to deny it”, they charge straight at what many people may think would be the root of the matter. “It is known in the technical division that few women can lift the ladder to the cockpit alone. I cannot disarm a cannon, but I am aware of my limits”, one of them declares.
After the cannons have been disarmed and the ladder brought up to the cockpit, the physical gap shrinks in comparison with the female technicians private feelings. “I think the problem lies in the social sphere”, they share. “A situation might occur in which the female officer feels as if she isn’t part of the ‘gang’. It emphasizes, in my opinion, the fact that a woman being in the commanding field is not obvious yet. We want to be relevant and things not to go over our heads”.
Lt. Dana Halfon, a technical officer in the “Bat” Squadron, disagrees. “I feel very proud when I know that I have the ability to be in a position which is mostly manned by men”, she explains. “In my opinion, the challenge isn’t physical, it has to do with mentality and authority. While serving in my current position I understood that anything is possible. When I am the only female officer in a conference room for example, I am filled with pride and aspire for it to be full of more female officers. I call every woman in the technical division who wants to promote herself, to do so, not to be scared and to conquer more goals”.
Despite the command’s encouragement, the support and awareness in the IAF and IDF, many female officers still feel that there is surprise from their service in complex positions in the technical division. Although we are closer than ever to the long-awaited equality, the naturalness which will close the case someday is still missing.
“I hope that ten years from now no one will raise an eyebrow”
In 2012 the first female munitions officer took her position in the IAF, but in the meantime, women have been manning positions in the technical divisions for years and years, about a quarter of the mandatory servicemen/women in the technical division are women. They build bombs in munitions factories, drive forklifts and do everything like men. Then why do many of them still avoid the Officer’s Academy and commanding positions in the Division?
“The image of female technical officers is stereotype ridden. However, I feel that my femininity grew stronger in this position and that my confidence has strengthened”, says Lt. Ozeri. There is another possible reason, the lack of a senior female model – a cavity that they wish to fill. They are well aware of the female power in the military and they think that patience can work wonders when more and more senior positions in the technical division are being manned by female officers and career servicewomen. For a start they have one another and besides being always welcoming for consultation and supporting one another, their pioneering presence in their positions is the first brick in building the next female generation.
“I remember being an NCO and hearing Lirit’s story, who is a munitions officer and a mom and being very impressed. She was and still is a great inspiration”, shares Lt. Ozeri.
“The fact that more and more women choose this path, makes female technicians seem routine and not unusual as before”, notes Second Lt. Yael. “This comradeship strengthens you in moments of crisis and proves that it’s possible, it is definitely the reason for the increase in the number of female technical officers”, and Lt. Ozeri adds: “I hope that ten years from now I will see that things progressed from where we are now, that I’ll be a senior officer in the technical division and that the young female officer under my authority will fit more naturally and that no one will raise an eyebrow when they see a woman in this type of position”.
Photo: Guy Ashash