June 19, 2013

Combat ready: Women in the military

The military cites culture concerns as it gets ready for women moving into special operations units.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

U.S. soldier Pfc. Janelle Zalkovsky, from civil affairs unit of 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery..
click image to enlarge

Pfc. Janelle Zalkovsky provides security while other soldiers survey a newly constructed road in Ibriam Jaffes, Iraq in this handout photo released December 7, 2005. Women will have more frontline jobs available to them under new Pentagon regulations.



1948 - Law passed making women a permanent part of the U.S. military services.

1975 - The Air Force puts the first woman on operational crew status.

1976 - The first group of women enters the U.S. military academies.

1983 - About 200 Army and Air Force women are among the forces deployed to Grenada, serving on air crews, as military police and as transportation specialists.

1990-91 - Some 40,000 American military women are deployed during the Gulf War operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

1994 - A Pentagon policy prohibits women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level.

2002 - Marine Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters becomes the first U.S. servicewoman to die in the post-9/11 wars. She was killed in a refueling tanker crash.

2005 - Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a Kentucky National Guard soldier, becomes the first woman awarded the Silver Star for service in the war on terror. Her convoy came under attack outside Baghdad. She was cited for killing several insurgents and saving the lives of numerous convoy members.

2008 - Ann E. Dunwoody becomes the military's first women to be promoted to general.

2012 - The military opens more than 14,000 jobs in smaller units closer to the front lines.

2013 - Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, sign order saying women must have the same opportunities as men in combat jobs.

– The Associated Press

The bulk of the nearly 240,000 jobs currently closed to women are in the Army, including those in infantry, armor, combat engineer and artillery units that are often close to the battlefront.

Army officials have laid out a rolling schedule of dates in 2015 to develop gender-neutral standards for specific jobs, beginning with July for combat engineers, followed by field artillery in March and the infantry and armor jobs no later than September.

Similar jobs in the Marine Corps are also currently closed, and would also be opened on a rolling basis.

As an example of the standards' review, Marine Col. Jon Aytes, head of the Marine Corps military policy branch, said that 400 men and 400 women Marines will be assessed in five key physical tests to gauge whether candidates can meet the physical requirements of the Corps.

He said they include lifting a 55-pound tank round, scaling a wall and conducting some weight-lifting maneuvers. The tests evaluate whether troops can load ammunition into a tank as required or possibly carry heavy packs or injured comrades.

Last year the military opened up about 14,500 combat positions to women, most of them in the Army, by allowing them to serve in many jobs at the battalion level. The January order lifted the last barrier to women serving in combat, but allows the services to argue to keep some jobs closed.

The decision reflects a reality driven home by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where battle lines were blurred and women were propelled into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers who were sometimes attached, but not formally assigned, to battalions. So even though a woman could not serve officially as a battalion infantryman going out on patrol, she could fly a helicopter supporting the unit or be part of a team supplying medical aid if troops were injured. Women make up about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations in support of the wars.


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