Military branches say they will continue to open jobs for female troops
Military leaders will continue to broaden opportunities for women in each of the four service branches, officials said.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the 2014 Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Washington, representatives of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines described efforts to open more positions to women.
Female service members long ago proved they can fight alongside their male counterparts, officials said.
Army Col. Linda Sheimo, chief of the Command Program and Policy Division at the Human Resources Policy Directorate Army G-1, said women have served in combat since at least 2003.
Sheimo said women served admirably long before that, too.
"Female soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen — they've deployed to combat, they've been under fire, they've faced the enemy, taken incoming fire and returned fire," said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Samarov, plans officer for the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office. "That's combat."
"Courage, determination, grit — it's not reserved for males," Samarov said.
The officials said their services are not just opening all positions to women. There are deliberate steps in place to ensure smooth transitions, including numerous studies and assessments.
The Army will decide on one of its potential next steps early next year.
Sheimo said that is when the Army will decide whether to allow a one-time assessment of women in Ranger school. If approved and women complete the school, they would earn the Ranger tab but not the job identifier, Sheimo said.
The Army already has opened more than 55,000 positions to women, she said.
All units are now open, Sheimo said. Only 14 jobs remain closed to women. Those final positions are being studied, she said.
Other services have made progress in their efforts to diversify.
Navy Cmdr. Renee Squier, head of the Office of Women's Policy for the Chief of Naval Personnel, said the Navy has been successful in the recruitment, training and placement of women. Now efforts have switched to the retention of female sailors.
In the Air Force, 99 percent of all positions are open to women, said Air Force Lt. Col. Veronica Senia, chief of the Air Force Assignments and Women in Service Review Branch.
Senia said only those positions that work directly with Army infantry — such as tactical air control airmen — remain closed to women. That is about seven positions out of about 4,000, she said.
Samarov said expanding the open positions in the Marine Corps has given that service an opportunity to improve itself into a better, stronger service.
So far, only 20 of 335 Marine Corps jobs have yet to be integrated.
"We're not going to lower standards, period," Samarov said. "If you meet that requirement, whether male or female, you'll have the opportunity to compete for one of those jobs."
Now services are trying to better integrate those units that are open. They have increased reinforcement training on dignity and respect.
According to Army surveys, any issues with integrated units may eventually work themselves out.
"The more that men worked with women, the more they realized they were capable to do the jobs," Sheimo said.
Samarov said the Marine Corps is creating an integrated unit at Camp Lejeune to collect information on how male and female Marines work together. He said younger Marines appear to be more open to the idea, according to that service's surveys.
"Overall, you see there is among younger Marines more openness, especially when they understand, 'Hey, look, the standard isn't going to change,'" Samarov said.
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