By Debbie Gregory.
The role of American women in war is evolving. In 2012, the Pentagon announced that women would be formally permitted in crucial and dangerous jobs, closer to the front lines. But the Pentagon stopped short of officially allowing women to serve in combat.
Women already serve in many combat jobs, but as temporary “attachments” to battalions — a bureaucratic sidestep that has been necessary due to the high demand for troops during the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Women were permanently assigned to a battalion — a ground unit of some 800 personnel — as radio operators, medics, tank mechanics and other critical jobs.
The Army announced plans to integrate women into combat roles, opening positions within 27 brigade combat teams (BCT), which include nine National Guard brigade combat teams.
Seventeen brigade combat teams are placing women in combat-related jobs as part of the Defense Department’s ongoing effort to open all military jobs to women.
The BCTs – eight in the active Army and nine in the Army National Guard, will assign female soldiers to their maneuver battalions’ headquarters in military occupational specialties already open to women.
The 17 newly added BCTs would seek female company-grade officers and noncommissioned officers in the grades of sergeant through sergeant first class, for as many as 1,700 positions.
The goal is to initially assign female captains and staff sergeants and sergeants first class to these units. Sergeants may be considered for chaplain assistant jobs.
Military leaders are ready to begin tearing down the remaining walls that have prevented women from holding thousands of combat and special operations jobs near the front lines. Women could start training as Army Rangers by mid-2015 and as Navy SEALs a year later.
The military services have mapped out a schedule that will review and possibly change the physical and mental standards that men and women will have to meet to quality for certain front-line positions across service branches. Under the plan, there would be one common standard for men and women for each job.