Army Will Soon Open More Combat Jobs to Women, General Says

Pfc. Katherine Beatty gives helpful hints to her teammate holding four excess gunpowder bags that weren’t needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer, Fort Sill, Okla., March 1, 2016. Beatty is the Army’s first 13B cannon crewmember to graduate from advanced individual training, taught in 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery. (U.S. Army photo/Cindy McIntyre)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty gives helpful hints to her teammate holding four excess gunpowder bags that weren’t needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer, Fort Sill, Okla., March 1, 2016. Beatty is the Army’s first 13B cannon crewmember to graduate from advanced individual training, taught in 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery. (U.S. Army photo/Cindy McIntyre)

Over the last three years, more than 1,000 female soldiers have moved into combat-arms jobs since the Pentagon did away with male-only units.

The ground-breaking decision came in December 2015, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the services to open all direct-action combat occupations to women.

"To date, the Army has successfully accessed and transferred more than 1,000 women into the previously closed occupations of infantry, armor and field artillery," Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the service's deputy chief of staff for G-1, said in a recent news release.

Currently, 80 female officers are assigned to infantry or armor positions at Forts Bliss and Hood, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the release states.

In 2019, the Army plans to open up more assignments for female officers at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and in Italy, Seamands said in the release.

"Additionally, the Army has transferred, trained and assigned female NCOs into both infantry and armor specialties," he said. "As part of a multi-year effort to open other assignments to female soldiers, as many as 500 women currently serve in every active brigade combat team in the Army, down to the company level."

These advances for women followed a major milestone in August 2015 when then-Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver made history by becoming the first women to successfully graduate from Army Ranger School, a punishing 62-day infantry leadership course designed to push students to their mental and physical limits.

To date, 30 women have graduated Ranger School, the release states.

Ranger students learn how to operate in three environments -- woodlands in Fort Benning, Georgia; mountainous terrain in Dahlonega, Georgia; and coastal swamp at Camp Rudder at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Neither Griest nor Haver earned their tabs in their first attempt at the course. Like many of their fellow male students, they were invited to start over after failing the first phase of the course twice.

About 34 percent of students who enter Ranger School recycle at least one phase of the course, Army officials say. Typically, only 25 percent make it through Ranger School without any recycles, according to school officials.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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