Army expanding installations to assign women in combat jobs
By AMANDA DOLASINSKI | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 29, 2018
Female officers in infantry and armor jobs will be heading to three additional installations, leading the way for women who are choosing jobs on the frontlines.
Col. Michael Lawhorn, a spokesman for U.S. Army Forces Command, said women in combat jobs can now be assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The move expands opportunities for women, who have previously been assigned only to Fort Bragg and Fort Hood, Texas.
“Forces Command plans to provide a long-term plan to its units in the next 30 days,” Lawhorn said, noting the expansion is based on commander recommendations.
Lawhorn said the expansion provides women with more opportunities, especially if they are planning on a 20-year career in the Army.
“We want to be able to offer a variety of assignments to women in these branches,” he said.
The Army will follow its leaders-first structure for integration by first moving two female officers or non-commissioned officers into a unit, then moving female junior enlisted soldiers. That structure was in place for Fort Bragg and Fort Hood integration.
Since 2012, the Department of Defense opened more than 111,000 positions to women. In December 2015, the final 213,600 positions across 52 military occupational specialties were opened to women when the DOD struck down regulations that prevented them from serving in combat jobs.
Among the first to open to women were field artillery jobs in October 2015. At Fort Bragg, that meant women could be assigned to field artillery jobs with the 18th Field Artillery Brigade and the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery.
As women began graduating from infantry training over the past year, they began arriving to units at Fort Bragg and Fort Hood. To date, there are about 40 women assigned to infantry jobs with brigades at Fort Bragg and about 140 women assigned to infantry and armor brigades at Fort Hood.
Those installations were the first chosen for women in combat jobs because of their large populations, according to Forces Command.
"Posts like Fort Bragg and Fort Hood have the key and experienced leadership communities, the military occupational specialties and large soldier-population densities," said Paul Boyce, a spokesman for Forces Command. "As the integration plan continues, the potential number of assignment opportunities also is among the factors to determine locations and timing."
In November, six women at Fort Bragg were recognized when they became the first in the Army to earn the prestigious Expert Infantryman Badge. Testing for the badge only recently opened to women as infantry jobs opened.
Through a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, all six women who earned the badge declined to talk about their achievement. The division did not name the women.
To earn the Expert Infantryman Badge, a soldier must successfully complete 30 tasks that prove mastery in infantry skills, including weapons proficiency, medical tasks and and patrol maneuvers.
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