As the Pentagon works to figure out precisely how it will integrate women into military specialties previously closed to them—including infantry and artillery units—top U.S. defense officials are actively studying other militaries around the globe that have already sent women to combat.
The review includes researching the experiences of Australia, Canada, and other nations with whom American troops have worked closely in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a senior Pentagon official. Some countries have had “three to ten years to go through this process, to integrate women” into combat roles, the official said.
There are roughly a dozen nations that have opened “close combat roles” to women. Those roles are defined by a 2010 British Ministry of Defense (MOD) study as those that include “engaging an enemy on the ground … while being exposed to hostile fire and a high probability of physical contact with the hostile forces personnel.”
In many parts of the world, these efforts have moved quickly once they’ve begun. Though women in Poland were not even accepted at the nation’s military academies until 1999, for example, the country passed a law in 2004 requiring women with college nursing or veterinary degrees to register for compulsory service.
Of the dozen or so countries that allow women to be part of combat units, here are those with the fewest restrictions on what women can do.