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Scandinavian Women Have Held Combat Jobs Since 1980s

April 30, 1993

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Scandinavian women have been assigned to military combat units since the 1980s, serving on submarines, flying jets, and sailing off to the Gulf War.

So the U.S. decision to drop restrictions on women flying combat missions and serving aboard warships posts seems old hat in northern Europe, where Denmark’s Queen Margrethe underwent combat training three decades ago as a princess.

Some of Scandinavia’s female volunteers see combat duty as a natural part of their military careers.

″When it comes to flying an F-16, it makes no difference if you are a man or a woman,″ said 2nd Lt. Mette Groetteland, Norway’s first female pilot of the F-16, a U.S.-made fighter jet.

Like other Norwegian fighter pilots, Groetteland trained in the United States and shared classrooms with American women. But while she has been flying missions and expects to earn her combat wings this summer, her American women classmates have been teaching.

″They have been training female F-16 pilots for a long time, but then only allowed them to serve as instructors,″ said Groetteland.

″It’s expensive to train an F-16 pilot, so it’s a good idea to use them for what they were trained for,″ said the 24-year-old pilot by telephone from her squadron’s base in the arctic town of Bodo.

Denmark’s Margrethe learned judo and snow survival - including building and sleeping in an igloo - during her 1959-60 military stint in the Home Guard, a national guard.

Finland bars women from all but civilian jobs in the military. So although it appointed Elisabeth Rehn the world’s second female defense minister three years ago, she commands no female troops.

Only in Norway can women join the regular army.

Norwegian women serve in most combat units, including infantry and paratroopers, said Col. Per Bothun of the Norwegian Supreme Defense Command. Women get little special treatment, but units try to account for possible differences in size and strength when assigning duties, he said.

Women in Denmark and Sweden train in academies to become officers or join volunteer units, instead of joining the regular army.

But once once they volunteer, they can be assigned anywhere. Ten percent of the crew on Danish ships sent to the Gulf War in 1990 were women. Dozens of Swedish and Danish women are among the U.N. troops in former Yugoslavia.

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