Canada hosts NATO panel on combat integration


Seventeen military and civilian researchers from 10 NATO countries gathered in Ottawa recently to discuss the integration of women into military combat roles.

The group aims to develop a NATO research framework on combat integration and physical employment standards, share injury prevention research and advice, identify female-specific physical training strategies, and publish a final technical report and research compendium. The panel first met earlier this year in France, and will continue to meet regularly over the next three years.

Combat integration was initiated by the CAF in 1989, and recently by the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, which opened Ground Close Combat roles to women this year. In 2013, the CAF introduced the FORCE Evaluation, a gender-free physical employment standard which has been proven to be representative of occupational tasks, and is attainable, regardless of age or gender.

“Identifying best practices for the development of physical employment standards in combat integration will minimize inherent gender bias,” said Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan, Chief of Staff, Canadian Army Operations, who gave opening remarks to the panel. “A physical employment standard sets reasonable expectations, related to the actual actions performed by the military forces, and in turn enables the success of men and women in all military roles.”

Participants of the NATO group included members from the UK, the US, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Norway, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia. Gender integration within military combat roles, physical employment standards designed to avoid gender bias, and the relationships between injuries, fitness, and gender were discussed.

“Canada, as a leader in combat integration, was pleased to take on the responsibility for this NATO group,” said panel leader Dr. Tara Reilly, Senior Research Officer with Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services’ Directorate of Fitness. “Facilitating such an international platform is a great way to share research and experiences amongst allies. Our end goal is to provide a practical framework that can serve as an off-the-shelf ‘how-to’ for a NATO best practice on designing gender and bias-free physical employment standards.”

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