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Odierno eyes more expansion of women's combat roles in the fall

WASHINGTON — More than 200 female soldiers began reporting to maneuver battalions and nine brigade combat teams this week, and an assignment restriction based on co-location with combat units has been rescinded, opening up more than 13,000 positions to women in the Army, Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Wednesday.

But the Army is still looking at how to incorporate more women into combat roles, whether to open more military occupational specialties and whether to allow women to attend Ranger School.

Ninety percent of the Army’s senior infantry officers are Ranger-qualified.

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“So if we determine that we’re going to allow women to go in the infantry and be successful, they’re probably at some time going to have to go through Ranger School,” Odierno said in a Pentagon briefing. “If we decide to do this, we want the women to be successful.”

Army officials will continue to study the issue of women in combat roles for the next few months.

“My guess is,” Odierno said, “based on my experience in Iraq and what I’ve seen in Afghanistan, we’ll then move forward with a more permanent solution inside of the Army sometime this fall.”

Odierno also commented on a House proposal to slow the Army’s shrinking of its force.

“I think what we submitted is the right pace,” Odierno said.

Changing the pace of the force reduction could compromise the Army’s ability to use natural attrition to trim the ranks over the years, and instead mean the Army would have to force more soldiers out.

Right now, he said, about 70 percent of the personnel cuts will come through attrition.

“I’ve talked to the House,” he said. “I’ve told them I don’t agree with those amendments. I’d like to see them adjusted.”

Odierno also warned, again, of the danger of sequestration, which he estimates would force the Army to cut 80,000 to 100,000 additional active-duty and reserve soldiers.

“What even makes sequestration worse is that we have no say in where the cuts come from,” he said, adding that it could lead to a hollow force and potentially cause the Army to breach many contracts.

hladj@stripes.osd.mil
Twitter: @
jhlad
 

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