Pentagon to Announce Approval of Women-in-Combat Plans: Sources

U.S. Army soldiers participate in the Darby Queen obstacle course as part of their training at the Ranger School at Ft. Benning Ga., June 28, 2015. Army Photo.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in the Darby Queen obstacle course as part of their training at the Ranger School at Ft. Benning Ga., June 28, 2015. Army Photo.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has approved service-specific plans opening previously closed combat and special operations jobs to women, Military.com has learned.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook is expected to make an announcement at 1 p.m. today announcing that Carter has formally approved plans submitted by the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command to open all jobs to women in compliance with a Pentagon mandate, a Pentagon source confirmed.

Carter announced Dec. 3 that he had decided not to grant any exceptions to the integration mandate, giving the services 30 days to submit a plan for how they planned to recruit, train, and place women in previously all-male roles.

The task is different for each military branch: while the Navy and Air Force have only a few positions that remain closed in their special operations communities, the Army and Marine Corps have numerous specialties and thousands of jobs that are opening to women for the first time.

Sources with knowledge of the announcement said the Pentagon also plans to publish web pages with links to the integration plans in their entirety, as well as supplemental information about the plans' execution.

While not all the services' plans have been released, the ones that have been made public differ widely.

The Marine Corps' plan, first published by the Christian Science Monitor, offered 57 pages of detail with instructions for most major commands about how to prepare to train and recruit women in the infantry and to the Marines' elite special operations command.

A SOCOM planning document that was made public, however, contained only a few pages and broader guidelines instead of specific details.

Following formal approval, the services' paths will diverge: while the Marine Corps already has more than 130 female Marines who have passed enlisted infantry training and are eligible to apply for infantry positions, the other services will have to accept female troops into various training pipelines before they can move then into newly opened positions.

Other steps to complete the integration process are already underway: the Army and Marine Corps are already working on designing form-fitting body armor for women in order to reduce injury and improve weight distribution.

--Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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