An Army directive issued at the end of January spells out what Defense Secretary Ash Carter meant when he announced in December that the military will open all of its positions to women with “no exceptions.”
Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy put the direction in motion on Jan. 29 when he signed an eight-page memo that officially gives female soldiers a shot at every infantry, Special Operations and Special Forces assignment in the Army.
“With the opening of all remaining positions in conventional force to women, the Army no longer has a separate policy for the assignment of female soldiers,” the directive states.
Murphy’s directive explicitly names the positions that had been closed to women, such as infantry, cavalry scouts, tank gunners, front-line artillery and the highly trained teams in 75th Ranger Regiment and in First Special Forces Command.
That’s a total of 125,318 positions in conventional ground forces and another 13,482 assignments under the Army Special Operations Command.
“All military positions are interchangeable,” the directive reads, unless there is a need to protect someone’s privacy.
Murphy’s directive orders state National Guard commanders, brigade commanders and division and corps human resources officers to carry out the new guidance.
Restrictions on women serving in traditional combat assignments have been easing since 2013, when former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on the military to fully integrate female troops.
The direction followed a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan that put women in harm’s way regardless of what kind of job they held.
Since Panetta’s term, the different branches of the Armed Forces have studied how to involve women in ground-level units. The Army passed a milestone last year when three female soldiers graduated from its Ranger school.
Earlier this week, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley and Marine Corps. Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told lawmakers they believe women should be required to register for the draft.
U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, on Thursday submitted a bill that would compel that change.
“If this administration wants to send 18- to 20-year-old women into combat, to serve and fight on the front lines, then the American people deserve to have this discussion through their elected representatives,” Hunter, a former Marine, said in announcing the bill.
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