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New combat roles for women

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Posted: Friday, May 4, 2012 12:00 pm

By Colleen Flaherty

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - Three of Fort Hood's brigade-level organizations will open up new positions to female soldiers starting May 14.

Some 78 positions formerly reserved for male noncommissioned officers and junior officers will become available to women in the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment as part of a new, six-month assessment of a Pentagon policy change.

Six other brigades across the Army are involved in the trial exception to the military's Direct Ground Combat Assignment Rule, which prohibits women from serving in military occupation specialties "co-located" with direct combat units. Women make up 17 percent of the Army.

Across the armed services, the change will result in 14,325 previously closed positions opening up to women. About 10,000 positions will be in new occupations, such as tank mechanic. The rest of the positions will be those previously open to women but never before at the battalion level or below.

"These decisions were based on valuable insight from the services, joint staff and combatant commanders, after over a decade of war, where more than 2.4 million service members have deployed - 280,000 of them women," said Elaine Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Military ranks affected are sergeant to sergeant first class and second lieutenant to captain. More than 3,800 Fort Hood female soldiers hold those ranks, according to post officials.

In a February news conference announcing the changes, George Little, press secretary for the Defense Department, said women had contributed in unprecedented ways to the military's mission during a decade of war.

He said the opening of 14,000 jobs was "the beginning, not the end, of a process" that recognized female soldiers' value and that the military would continue to determine what additional positions may be opened to women.

"Our goal is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender," said Little.

By law, the changes could not be implemented until Congress had met for 30 days of consecutive session following the announcement. The Army announced last week that it will begin a six-month assessment May 14 of an exception to the Direct Ground Combat provision.

In November, it will provide a joint-service report with the assessment period results and corresponding recommendations to the secretary of defense.

Fort Hood officials said it's important to note that female soldiers are currently trained in and performing the 78 jobs opening to them at Fort Hood, just not at the battalion level.

It's possible more women could soon fill other jobs at Fort Hood, however. The policy change allows women to train for and apply to serve in six new occupations specialties, including multiple rocket launch system crew member, artillery mechanic and Bradley fighting vehicle system maintainer.

"After women apply for these positions and complete military occupational specialty training, then they will be eligible to fill an available position," said Fort Hood spokesman Christopher Haug.

As female soldiers earn their way into new roles within the 1st Cavalry Division, Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson will become the First Team's - and the Army's - first deputy division commander.

The current Operational Test Command commander was pegged for her new role in March. A change of command is expected this summer.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at colleenf@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.

Combat positions open to women May 14

Starting May 14, 78 battalion-level positions will open up to female noncommissioned officers and junior officers within the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

2nd Brigade Combat Team

Units affected: 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment; and 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment

Number of jobs opening to women: 24

Fields: medical, intelligence, supply, chaplaincy and human resources

3rd Brigade Combat Team

Units affected: 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment; 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment

Number of jobs: 26

Fields: medical, intelligence, supply, chaplaincy and human resources

3rd Cavalry Regiment

Units affected: 1st-4th Squadrons and 3rd Fires Squadron

Number of jobs: 28

Fields: medical, chemical, communications, intelligence, supply and human resources.

The following military occupation specialties, in which female soldiers are not currently trained, also will open to women: multiple launch rocket system crewmembers; multiple launch rocket system operations/fire detection specialist; field artillery firefinder radar operator specialist; M1 Abrams tank system maintainer; Bradley fighting vehicle system maintainer; and artillery mechanic.

Source: III Corps public affairs

- Colleen Flaherty

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