Training of Women Officers

By Farkas, T. | Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military, Fall-Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Training of Women Officers


Farkas, T., Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military


To begin with, let me introduce myself. I am the director general at Janos Bolyai Military Technical College, which was, in 1994, the first institution in Hungary to admit women into the four-year undergraduate education to train officers. At present, we have 100 students who represent the so-called "weaker" sex in different years and different classes. We are fortunate to say that the first class has already been graduated: on August 20, 1998, 29 young woman officers graduated after having taken part in the four-year basic training. I would like to raise a few issues about their fate, lives, and their performance in the light of the experience we have gained, rather than following the scientific methods of a sociologist.

At first, I have to say that it was far from the military to think that in the relation of a commanding officer and a subaltern--apart from one or two really special cases--could be a relationship between a man and woman.

How true this statement is could be best illustrated through my own experience. I was a commanding officer with experience and a senior inspector teaching and working with a great number of students and staff among whom I felt completely secure. The environment was homogeneous since we worked with military men. At that time it happened quite often that I was invited to give a lecture at the University of Horticulture and Viticulture, which I accepted easily, in an "untroubled mood." The surprise struck me when I was standing in front the class and was to start my presentation with complete confidence, as I was aware of my experience and knowledge. Then suddenly, I realized that all the women in that 600-seat lecture room had curiously fixed their eyes on me and were critically watching every movement and activity of the uniformed lecturer. My certainty faltered.

It was not just this little story that motivated me to initiate the establishment of the conditions for admitting woman students in 1992/93. Neither was it the fact that two of my three daughters have become soldiers. It was more because there was a lawful and fair, large-scale claim that had been raised since the beginning of the nineties. That was an overpowering and strong imperative since ladies radically, now and then "aggressively," demanded that the college should eliminate this negative discrimination.

I would like to present some data primarily in connection with the graduation. Out of the 29 woman officers drawn up in Kossuth Square-in reality, they were more in number since many of those who graduated from civil universities and colleges took their oath of allegiance at the same time--six specialized in army supply and finances, four as locators, nine as signals officers, six in radio-reconnaissance, and four computer engineering. Altogether 29 students had this privilege out of the 33 women who had begun their studies in 1994.

The four people who had left college did not do it because of the lack of motivation. Social, family, and health problems were those factors which led to their decisions.

What road led up to the graduation of the woman students? What did the 29 women have to achieve? What will the members of following years have to do? During the eight semesters they had to study 4800 lessons, out of which 2000 were practical drills. These were workshops and laboratory activities--everything that is compulsory for this profession.

The military training is some 1000 very hard lessons: 500 compulsory physical education lessons, which are completed with obligatory sport activities in clubs in their free time. At the beginning there is a one-month-long basic training which is obligatory for everybody. Students from higher age groups participate as commanding officers. No difference is made in who is posted to which subunit! It often happened that a woman section leader had trained a squad which consisted exclusively of men. The choice is made on the basis of abilities and aptitude. …

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