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An Armenian military academy has admitted women as cadets for the first time as part of ongoing reforms of the country’s armed forces.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that five young women have been selected to study in the Marshal Khanperiants Military Aviation Institute that trains pilots for the national air force and officers for air-defense units.

The ministry announced in early June that “physically strong” women aged 18 and older will now be allowed to apply to this academy and the Vazgen Sarkisian Military Institute, which prepares officers for ground forces. It said having more female officers stems from reforms designed to bring the Armenian army into greater conformity with NATO standards.

“The number of applications wasn’t large because this was the first year [of women’s admission,]” the ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But the most important thing is that the process has started, which is a welcome development,” he said.

Hovannisian added that unlike the male cadets the five women will not have to spend nights in barracks for the duration of their studies. “They will have to stay in barracks only during field exercises,” he said.

According to the Defense Ministry, the total number of female soldiers and officers in the Armenian army stood at over 1,400 as of last November. The vast majority of them hold clerical positions in the ministry, army detachments and other military structures.

Still, the number of women performing combat roles appears to have risen in recent years. Hovannisian confirmed the increased presence of female snipers in special army detachments.

The Armenian military also revealed recently that one of its senior officers in charge of training paratroopers is a woman. A Defense Ministry program aired by state television showed her overseeing parachute jumps by future army commandos.
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