By Debbie Gregory.
Beginning in April of this year, the U.S. Army will open approximately 33,000 positions to female soldiers. This is the latest step in the DOD’s long-term objective of opening all military positions to women.
The Army, Marines and Air Force break their roles and responsibilities into Military Occupation Specialties (MOS). The Navy calls their jobs “Rates.” MOSs and Rates carry with them a certain amount of pride and prestige. While it is arbitrary to debate which military job is “better” than another, for those working in them, it is mission essential that they all feel as though they are doing the most important job within the military.
According to the Army’s recruiting website, there are over 150 jobs categories in the Army. Of these, there are currently 14 MOSs that are closed to women. These jobs, including Infantryman, Combat Engineer and Special Operations MOSs, will remain closed to women for the time being, despite the new policy. It is also important to note that the 33,000 positions are not opening any new MOSs for females, but allowing them to assume previously roles in MOSs that they are already assigned to.
This new policy is still a major milestone for women in the U.S. Armed Forces. With it, women will be eligible for assignment to combat units. Prior to the change, women were not assigned to direct combat units. This was part of the DOD’s direct combat exclusion policy that prohibited women from being assigned to combat elements smaller than the brigade level. The Army announced this momentous shift in its organization exactly one year after the DOD rescinded its exclusion policy that was enacted in 1994.
The Army changed its policy as a direct result of thorough analysis of an experimental program that it enacted in May, 2012. After requesting an exception to the DOD’s exclusion policy, the Army was permitted to assign women to maneuver battalion headquarters in nine brigade combat teams (BCTs). In 2013, the Army was allowed to expand the program to include 26 total BCTs between active duty and Army National Guard components. The feedback that Army leadership received was good enough to expand female soldiers’ roles to what we are seeing today.
Congratulations to female soldiers for winning a major victory towards complete gender equality within the U.S. military. For decades, women in the U.S. Armed Forces faced what seemed like an uphill struggle. But their patriotism, determination and commitment to the Army are finally being recognized, and women are finally allowed to attain the true designation that they sacrificed so much in order to achieve…Soldier.