Female soldiers given expanded role; more specialties open 

 
1st Lt. Hannah Rosenthal, a paratrooper with the 82nd Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, exits a flipped vehicle rollover simulator with a foam training weapon at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Now, six military occupational specialties, previously closed to women, are open to female soldiers. (Photo credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael McLeod)

The Army recently announced that it will begin a six-month assessment on May 14 of an exception to the Direct Ground Combat Assignment Rule for female soldiers.

Under Direct Ground Combat Assignment Rule, or DGCAR, six military occupational specialties, or MOSs, were previously closed to women because they were normally co-located with direct combat units.

The Army’s removal of "co-location" from its policy opens to women the six specialties in 80 units, down to the battalion level, Brig. Gen. Barrye L. Price, director of Human Resources Policy, Army G-1, said.

"With the removal of co-location, a little over 13,000 billets will open for women to compete for assignment. And women now for the first time will be allowed to assess into these six specialties," Price said.

"So we’ll have to actually now recruit women for these specialties, which they have not in the past," he said.

Under the exception to policy, Price said 10 officer specialties and more enlisted positions will also open to women in nine brigade combat teams across the Army.

"We’re going to look to execute this exception to policy at one brigade at Fort Carson, Colo.; three brigades at Fort Hood, Texas; one brigade at Fort Knox, Ky.; one brigade at Fort Drum, N.Y.; one brigade at Fort Campbell, Ky.; and two brigade combat teams in Hawaii," Price said.

Within each of those brigades, Price continued, the Army already has women serving at the brigade headquarters level.

But within those nine brigades are 37 battalions in which women have not served before.

"This war, more than any, has shaped and informed our views on opening the aperture for women, based on what they’re actually doing, what they’ve actually achieved," Price said.

"Our nation and historically the roles that we’ve seen women playing and performing, and I think that really 11 years of persistent conflict has really shaped our views, not just internally to the DoD, but also societal views, as what more pronounced role women may play," he said.

The exception to DGCAR opens select positions to women in direct combat units at the battalion level in a number of military occupational specialties, totaling about 755 Army positions across nine brigade combat teams.

Company grade-officers in the ranks of second lieutenant through captain and noncommissioned officers in the grades of sergeant to sergeant first class will be receiving orders and will report for duty May 14.

The Department of Defense’s intent to implement the exception to policy was first announced in the DoD Women in the Services Restrictions Review released in February.

The Army will assess the impact of this exception to policy over a six-month period, Price said, and provide a joint-service report with the assessment period results and corresponding recommendations to the secretary of defense in November.

The Army intends to begin executing those recommendations shortly thereafter, he said.

"This has been a great growth experience for our nation at large," Price said.

Army women serving

In the early 1990s, Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy became the first three-star woman in the Army.

She retired in 2000 after 31 years of military service.

At present, the Army has one woman four-star, Ann E. Dunwoody, the first woman of any service at that rank in the nation.

She assumed the duties as the commanding general of Army Materiel Command on Nov. 14, 2008.

The Army has four female three-stars:

 - Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, who assumed command of the Army Medical Command on Dec. 5, 2011, and was sworn in as the 43rd Army surgeon general on Dec. 7, 2011

 - Lt. Gen. Kathleen M. Gainey, who currently is the director for Logistics, J4, the Joint Staff

 - Lt. Gen. Mary A. Legere, who assumed the duties of deputy chief of staff, G-2 on April 12, 2012

 - Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, who became the Army chief information officer, G-6 on March 2, 2011

Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson will become the first woman to serve as an assistant division commander (ADC) within the Army this summer.

"Laura will be assigned as the ADC of the 1st Cavalry Division," Price said.

Maj. Gen. Patricia E. McQuistion, currently commanding general of Army Sustainment Command, has been nominated for a third star, and to be the deputy commanding general of Army Materiel Command.

Price also said the senior officer in seven Army branches is a woman:

 - Quartermaster – Gen. Ann Dunwoody

 - Transportation – Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey

 - Medical – Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho

 - Nurse Corps – Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan

 - Adjutant General Corps – Maj. Gen. Gena S. Farrisee

 - Military Intelligence – Maj. Gen. Mary Legere

 - Signal – Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence

Right now, women comprise about 17 percent of the Army, Price said.

He said the exception to policy will have 36 percent of the positions open to women in the 37 battalions affected.

"It’s actually a little more than twice the proportion of women in the Army," Price said.

Over the next six months, he said the Army will look at duty performance, not just of the women, but of the entire organizations.

"We’ll assess training and occupational injury rates, we’ll assess cohesion and morale, both unit and individual readiness, and we’ll assess recruiting and retention rates, but that will be over time."

He said the assessment will affect the next steps the Army makes. He said the Army might go back to Congress and ask for greater authorities to open all of the brigade combat teams to women in certain specialties.

Price said he knows the first person who will be assigned from the top of this system to this exception to policy will be a female chaplain who’s going to one of these battalions where she would not have had the opportunity to serve, prior to this.

"Our women are certainly looking forward to it, and they’ve certainly earned the right on the battlefield," Price said.

Adding, "Opening these positions provides a greater pool of qualified soldiers from which our Army will draw, which maximizes our military capabilities and reduces operational tempo for those deployed.

"Policy is often informed by practice and the evolving nature of modern warfare, and that the outstanding service of our modern soldiers demonstrates this is the right thing to do for our soldiers, our all-volunteer Army, and for our nation." (ARNEWS)