Army Training Commander Promises Fair Standards for Combat Jobs
By David Vergun
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2013 – Fairness will be important as officials develop their plan for opening more direct-combat jobs to women, the commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command said here yesterday.
Gen. Robert W. Cone spoke with reporters after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the Defense Department has rescinded an exclusion dating to 1994 that barred women from being assigned to combat positions below brigade level.
"Soldiers -- both men and women -- want fair and meaningful standards" to be developed for accepting women into previously restricted specialties, Cone said. "I think that fairness is very important in a values-based organization like our Army."
The memo Panetta and Dempsey signed rescinding the policy does not spell out which military occupational specialties will be open to women. Rather, it directs the services to provide their implementation strategies to the Defense Department by May. Implementation will begin this year and be completed by the beginning of 2016, Panetta said at a news conference yesterday.
"This year we will begin to assign women to previously closed occupations using clear standards of performance in all occupational specialties," Dempsey said at the news conference.
"The burden of proof used to be, 'Why should a woman serve in a particular specialty?'" the chairman added. "Now, it's, 'Why shouldn't a woman serve in a particular specialty?'"
As of September, 418 of the Army's 438 MOSs were open to women of all ranks, according to an Oct. 31 Army report titled: "Women in the Army."
TRADOC already has been studying armies in other countries, such as Canada and Israel, where women successfully have been integrated into combat specialties. Army officials will consider knowledge, skills and attributes of soldiers and get the best match in specialties now restricted, Cone said, such as infantry, armor, field artillery and engineers.
Physical requirements will be one of the important attributes, he added.
"Soldiers don't want to see [that] degraded," the general said.
Objective assessments and validation studies, many of which already are complete, will look at each requirement by specialty, Cone told reporters. Tasks include such things as how much infantry soldiers must be able to lift, how much they have to carry, and for what distance, Cone said. Once the validations are done, scientists will then develop specialty-specific physical fitness tests that will, in turn, be validated with field studies, he explained.
Besides physical ability, Cone said, Army officials will look at "traditional impediments" -- the attitudes regarding the acceptance of women into previously male-only jobs.
"A lot of this is about leadership and the organizational climate," he added.
The Army will take "proactive measures to mitigate resistance to women going into these specialties," the general said.
"We want the right environment for women," he said.
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