SUMMARY: The last remaining woman in the US Army’s Ranger School will be ‘recycled’ to attempt the final Swamp phase again. If she graduates, she will join Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver as the first female graduates of Ranger School. The Army has subsequently announced that it would remove all restrictions on women attending Ranger School in the future. General Mark A Milley has rationalised the decision in terms of combat readiness, saying, “giving every qualified soldier the opportunity to attend the Ranger Course, the Army’s premier small unit leadership school, ensures we are maintaining our combat readiness today, tomorrow and for future generations.”
SOURCES: Dan Lamothe, September 15 2015, ‘Last Woman at Army’s Ranger School held back from graduating, but still could pass course,’ The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/09/15/last-woman-at-armys-ranger-school-held-back-from-graduating-but-still-could-pass-course/
SUMMARY: The US Air Force conducted a study on new gender-neutral standards for combat jobs, with over 175 male and female volunteers. Brigadier General Brian Kelly, director of military force management policy says that many of the women who took part in the study, “were volunteers from a variety of other career fields…and they were able to compete with and stay up with men.” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has indicated that she wants to open up the last 6 combat jobs in the Air Force to women. With these Air Force jobs requiring 2 to 3 years of special operations combat training, there was no way for women to experience the existing physical standard requirements. This study is therefore even more important to determine physical capability, and will likely be used to develop gender-neutral occupational standards for combat positions.
SOURCES: Stephen Losey, September 16 2015, ‘USAF General: Women in Combat Standards test can keep up,’ Military Times, http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/careers/2015/09/16/kelly-women-in-combat-standards-test-confident-they-can-keep-up/32494747/
SUMMARY: General Joseph Votel, commander of the US Special Operations Command, has stated that the SOCOM recommendation on women serving in direct-action combat units will be submitted shortly. Votel indicated that SOCOM has considered a range of studies conducted by various branches, including the Marine Corps’ study, which was heavily criticised by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In the announcement, there was extensive acknowledgment of the women in cultural support teams, who were regarded as a “critical factor for us in being much more effective in things we were being asked to do on the battlefield.” The seemingly positive perspective on women in combat seems indicative of a recommendation without exceptions.
SOURCES: Matthew Cox, September 16 2015, ‘Head of Spec Ops Command: Decision on women in combat imminent,’ Military.com, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/09/16/head-of-specops-command-decision-on-women-in-combat-imminent.html
SUMMARY: Officials report that the Marine Corps commandant General Dunford has recommended that women not be allowed to compete for several front-line combat jobs, including infantry and reconnaissance positions. The basis of this decision is the Marine Corps gender integration yearlong study, which concluded that overall male-only units performed better than gender-integrated units. The study’s report also cited several outdated sources, including a 25 year-old report by a presidential commission on women in the armed forces that concluded that having women in combat is “morally wrong.” The Marine Corps’ recommendation has inflamed debate over whether Navy Secretary Ray Mabus can veto the proposal. Mabus has recently come under fire for publicly criticizing the study, saying, it “relied on averages… and a lot of the things that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things: training and leadership.” He went on to say on a different occasion, “I’m not going to ask for an exemption for the Marines, and it’s not going to make them any less fighting effective.” Mabus sides with the other branches, which are all expected to allow women in combat without exceptions. Republican congressman, and ex-Marine Duncan Hunter has called for Mabus’ resignation, on the basis that Mabus “openly disrespected the Marine Corps as an institution.”
The usual process will see the service chiefs present their plans to service secretaries, who will then forward recommendations to the US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. There is seemingly a conflict of interest, as General Dunford will take over as chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs and will likely defend his recommendation, even when the Army, Navy, Air Force and SOCOM are not submitting exceptions. It is no surprise that when women only make up less than 8% of the Marine Corps, it is the only branch pushing for exceptions, especially since the Army, Navy and Air Force are expected to allow women in combat jobs without exceptions.
SOURCES: Lolita C Baldor, September 18 2015, ‘AP Sources: Marines seek to close combat jobs to women,’ Marine Corps Times, http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2015/09/18/ap-sources-marines-seek-close-combat-jobs-women/72398172/
SUMMARY: As the deadline looms for military branches to submit their recommendations to the US Defense Secretary for exceptions to the lifting of the combat exclusion policy, statistics and data are dominating the debate. More than 9000 female troops have earned Combat Action Badges, with more earning valour awards- including the Silver Star. With more than 214 000 women currently serving in the military, comprising 14.5% of the forces, and more than 280 000 women having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reality of women already in combat is seemingly ignored. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) cites as of April 2015, “161 women have lost their lives and 1,015 had been wounded in action as part of Global War on Terror Operations.” Critics of women in combat ignore this and continue to parrot statistics about higher injury rates for women.
The CRS summarises the arguments on either side:
Opposed to Lifting the Exclusion Ban
“Those in favor of keeping restrictions cite physiological differences between men and women that could potentially affect military readiness and unit effectiveness. Some also argue that social and cultural barriers exist to the successful integration of women into combat occupations and all-male units.”
Advocates for Lifting the Exclusion Ban
“Those who advocate for opening all military occupations to women emphasize equal rights and arguing it is more difficult for service members to advance to top-ranking positions in the armed services without combat experience. In their view, modern weapons have equalized the potential for women in combat since wars are less likely to be fought on a hand-to-hand basis.”
SOURCE: Richard Sisk, August 31 2015, ‘ Women in Combat: Silver Stars, Combat Action Badges and Casualties,’ Military.com, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/08/31/women-in-combat-silver-stars-combat-action-badges-casualties.html
SUMMARY: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made it clear during his speech to the American Legion that restrictions would be lifted on women in combat positions for those who can meet the standards. Carter made reference to the achievements of Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver, the two female Ranger school graduates saying, “when put to the test, not everyone, only a select few, will meet our standards of combat excellence. But no one needs to be barred from their chance to be tested.” While the 1994 regulations prohibiting women from serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment still stand, Carter’s comments indicate that top military brass may be relaxing their tight grip on combat positions for women who meet the existing standards.
SOURCE: Richard Sisk, September 1 2015, ‘Carter: Military should let women meet standards for combat jobs,’ Military.com, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/09/01/carter-military-should-let-women-meet-standards-for-combat-jobs.html
SUMMARY: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has publicly stated that women who meet the physical standards should be allowed to serve in front-line combat roles in the Marine Corps infantry and special operations. While Marine officials are yet to submit their recommendations to Mabus, who will have until October 1st to submit exemption requests (if any) to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Mabus has publicly stated, “I do not see a reason for an exemption.” The one thing that Mabus is adamant about is keeping physical standards unchanged. General Joseph Dunford, the current Marine Corps Commandant will be making the recommendation shortly, and will then assume his new position as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Retiring Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, has also stated that the women who meet the training to become SEALs should be allowed to serve.
SOURCE: Meghann Myers, September 1 2015, ‘Navy Secretary wants Marine Corps Infantry open to women,’ NavyTimes, http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/09/01/secnav-no-reason-not-open-marine-infantry-women/71529246/
SUMMARY: Research from the Department of Veterans Affairs surveyed more than 20,000 men and women who served during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and found that 41% of women and 4% of men experienced sexual harassment during their time in the military. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 5 US women and 1 in 71 men (entire population) report being raped at some point in their lifetime. The Veterans Affairs research data was collated from a health survey of recent veterans during 2009 and 2011, however the follow-up clinical screenings conducted to assess the extent of possible sexual trauma was not used in the eventual publication. Dr Daniel Grossman, a separate researcher at IBIS Reproductive Health and the University of California stated, “we heard that certain aspects of military culture, including widespread sexism and the fact that men often outrank women, contributed to an environment that was conducive to sexual trauma.”
SOURCE: Lisa Rapaport, August 27 2015, ‘Two in Five military women endure sexual trauma during service,’Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/27/us-health-rape-military-idUSKCN0QW24P20150827
|SUMMARY: Kyleanne Hunter is a former US Marine Officer and current Ph.D. candidate at the University of Denver, who writes about standards in the Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano the recently dismissed commander of the Fourth Battalion has commented on the highly political issue of physical standards in the US Forces. Germano claimed that lowering standards for women “led to an underlying sexism in the ranks, one that systematically kept women from reaching their full potential.” Her continued efforts for female candidates to meet “higher” standards caused great controversy, and she has now been removed as commander of the training battalion. The hyper-masculine Marine Corps culture is a palpable and significant hindrance for “integrated forces.” Hunter discusses her own experience in the Marine Corps, especially while training, where she held herself to the male physical standard in order to “prove that [she] belonged.” However, Hunter’s accomplishments were also marred by constant comments about her gender and the “institution that has conditioned Marines to expect less from its members who are born female.” Hunter goes on to claim, “combat does not care about your gender,” and notes the slow institutional shift in the US military that is challenging the present masculine culture.
SOURCE: Kyleanne Hunter, August 25 2015, ‘The cost of lower standards for Women in Marine Recruitment,’ The New York Times – At War Blog, http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/the-cost-of-lower-standards-for-women-in-marine-recruitment/
SUMMARY: Catherine Fox, member of the Australian Defence Force’s General Equality Advisory Board, writes that the US military should use the lessons learnt from opening combat positions to women in the Australian Defence Force. In Australia the combat exclusion policy for women was removed in 2011 after Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick’s review. Merely opening the door for women is not enough, with other reforms focusing on “changing the culture through a range of measures.” Former Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith who spoke at my book launch, ‘Beyond the Band of Brothers: The US military and the myth that women can’t fight,’ stated that the Australian experience regarding culture change is gaining traction internationally. The continued momentum for the ADF needs to continue in order to debunk the myth of the band of brothers.
SOURCE: Catherine Fox, August 24 2015, ‘Women in Combat: The US can learn from the ADF,’ The Drum Australian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-24/fox-women-in-combat/6720156