Women in Combat: The Services Respond
Combat medics Spcs. Aimee Collver and Vanessa Bolognese, 25th Infantry Division, pull security during a mission in Amerli, Iraq, July 11. (Photo U.S. Army)**
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed a groundbreaking memorandum to lift the ban on women in military combat operations.
The Memorandum, titled “Elimination of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule,” can be viewed here.
In their remarks following the signing, Panetta and Dempsey provided a broad overview of the momentous decision. The Memorandum and subsequent directives provide “guiding principles” under which positions will be opened to women following service reviews and other procedures and direct “the military departments to submit detailed plans by May 15, 2013, for the implementation of this change, and to move ahead expeditiously to integrate women into previously closed positions.” The process is to be complete by Jan. 1, 2016.
These are some of those guiding principles developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
• Ensuring the success of our nation’s warfighting forces by preserving unit readiness, cohesion, and morale.
• Ensuring all service men and women are given the opportunity to succeed and are set up for success with viable career paths.
• Retaining the trust and confidence of the American people to defend this nation by promoting policies that maintain the best quality and most qualified people.
• Validating occupational performance standards, both physical and mental, for all military occupational specialties (MOS), specifically those that remain closed to women…
• Ensuring that a sufficient cadre of midgrade/senior women enlisted and officers are assigned to commands at the point of introduction to ensure success in the long run…
As expected, the reactions by the various Services have been very positive.
Here are some of those reactions as reported by the American Forces Press Service:
The Marine Corps: Focus Remains on Combat Readiness
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said that maintaining the highest levels of combat readiness and capitalizing upon every opportunity to enhance warfighting capabilities and the contributions of every Marine is “simply the right thing to do.”
“Our ongoing deliberate, measured and responsible approach to validate occupational performance standards for all Marines is consistent with [the defense secretary’s] decision to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women,” the general said. “As our Corps moves forward with this process, our focus will remain on combat readiness and generating combat-ready units while simultaneously ensuring maximum success for every Marine.”
The talent pool from which officials select the Marine Corps’ finest warfighters will consist of all qualified individuals, regardless of gender, Amos added.
The U.S. Navy: Rescinding Combat Ban Continues Inclusion Trend
In a statement expressing his support of the new Defense Department policy, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus noted that the Navy and Marine Corps already had taken steps to open up fields previously available only to men.
“I am pleased the Navy has completed an initiative I announced several months ago to open up one of the few areas not currently available to women, that of service on Virginia-class submarines,” Mabus said.
“Three years ago, we announced a policy change allowing women to serve in guided-missile attack and ballistic missile submarines, and this is a planned continuation of that effort.”
Newly commissioned female officers have been selected for assignment to Virginia-class subs upon successful completion of the naval nuclear powered training pipeline, Mabus said.
“We expect these officers, along with female supply corps officers, to report to their submarines in [fiscal 2015],” he added. “We also plan to include female enlisted sailors in this process.
Rescinding the direct ground-combat exclusion allows the Navy to expand opportunities for women in its riverine forces and in billets that directly support Marine infantry operations, such as hospital corpsmen and chaplains, Mabus noted.
He also pointed out that the Marine Corps — which is part of the Navy Department — already has opened officer and staff noncommissioned officer billets in unrestricted mission occupational specialties in ground combat units that were previously closed to women, such as artillery, armor, low-altitude air defense and combat engineer battalions.
“We will continue to seek female volunteers to train at the Infantry Officer Course to prepare women to serve in the infantry as part of a comprehensive research plan that will inform the Marine Corps’ implementation plan,” the Navy secretary said.
Women continue to serve bravely and honorably at sea and ashore,” Mabus said. “Drawing from their talent in additional assignments increases our ability to maintain readiness.”
The U.S. Air Force: Pursue Opening Remaining Combat Positions to Women
With 99 percent of Air Force positions already open to women, the service now will pursue opening the final 1 percent, the Air Force chief of staff said yesterday.
“2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Department of Defense allowing women to serve as combat pilots,” Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said. “By rescinding the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, we can pursue integrating women into the seven remaining Air Force career fields still closed, all associated with special operations. We’re focused on ensuring America’s Air Force remains capable and ready with the best-qualified people serving where we need them.”
The Air Force will partner with U.S. Special Operations Command and the other services to review opening these positions in a deliberate, measured and responsible way, officials said.
Positions now closed to women in the Air Force are combat control; combat rescue and special tactics; and special operations weather officer positions for commissioned officers, and the combat control, tactical air command and control, pararescue and special operations weather specialties for enlisted airmen. These career fields represent about 3,235 positions, officials said.
Army Training and Doctrine Command: Promises Fair Standards for Combat Jobs
Fairness will be important as officials develop their plan for opening more direct-combat jobs to women, said the commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Gen. Robert W. Cone ,
“Soldiers — both men and women — want fair and meaningful standards” to be developed for accepting women into previously restricted specialties, Cone said. “I think that fairness is very important in a values-based organization like our Army.”
As of September, 418 of the Army’s 438 MOSs were open to women of all ranks, according to an Oct. 31 Army report titled: “Women in the Army.”
TRADOC already has been studying armies in other countries, such as Canada and Israel, where women successfully have been integrated into combat specialties. Army officials will consider knowledge, skills and attributes of soldiers and get the best match in specialties now restricted, Cone said, such as infantry, armor, field artillery and engineers.
Physical requirements will be one of the important attributes, he added.
“Soldiers don’t want to see [that] degraded,” the general said.
Objective assessments and validation studies, many of which already are complete, will look at each requirement by specialty, Cone told reporters. Tasks include such things as how much infantry soldiers must be able to lift, how much they have to carry, and for what distance, Cone said. Once the validations are done, scientists will then develop specialty-specific physical fitness tests that will, in turn, be validated with field studies, he explained.
Besides physical ability, Cone said, Army officials will look at “traditional impediments” — the attitudes regarding the acceptance of women into previously male-only jobs.
“A lot of this is about leadership and the organizational climate,” he added.
The Army will take “proactive measures to mitigate resistance to women going into these specialties,” the general said.
“We want the right environment for women,” he said.
There you have it. This time, too, the sky will not fall.
** To read the story of these two brave “women in combat” please go here.