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/