By Debbie Gregory.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, women have already been serving in the military. Although women have died in these wars, they were not allowed to serve in combat units. The Pentagon is ready to integrate women into the special forces, such as the Army Rangers and the Navy SEALs.
As Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine and Special Forces commanders detail steps they will take, some commanders do not share the same comfort level with the Pentagon initiative. However, in January, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta formally lifted the official ban on women in combat.
There have been concerns by some commandants as to how women might handle the very taxing physical demands of combat, and how men might view female troops in the elite forces.
There is no concrete evidence to suggest that female troops are any more susceptible to combat stress than their male counterparts.
Female marines train the same way as male marines. They shoot, exercise, plan battles and conduct military maneuvers the same way as their male counterparts. Several studies by the Defense Department’s Advisory Committee on Women in the Services have found that gender integration in noncombat units has no effect on overall unit cohesion.
The first opportunity female soldiers will have to join the military’s elite combat units will be with the Navy, according to Pentagon plans outlining the transition. Navy officials will open up the service’s Riverine Forces to eligible female candidates beginning next month, the Pentagon plan states.
The Riverine Squadrons of the United States Navy are elements of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. The Navy’s Riverine force focuses on conducting Maritime Security Operations and Theater Security Cooperation in a riverine area of operations or other suitable area.
The first Riverine Combat Skills Course (RCS) class to include females graduated in October, 2012.
Four of the graduates began the five-week course alongside 56 males.
Women may begin training as Army Rangers by 2015, and the United States may have its first female Navy SEAL come 2016, according to plans announced by the Pentagon.
U.S. Special Operations Command is coordinating which commando jobs could be opened to women, what exceptions might be requested, and when the transition would take place.
Women make up about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel. Over 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations in support of the wars. Women have earned their right to serve in combat units.