The Army announced that it will begin a six-month assessment May 14 of an exception to the Direct Ground Combat Assignment Rule for female Soldiers.
Of the nine brigades selected for the exception to policy, three are at Fort Hood – 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams in the 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
Some female Soldiers at Fort Hood are already serving in the combat units.
Staff Sgt. Mishiella Ryan, a medic with 3rd Cav. Regt., has been assigned to the regiment’s 4th Longknife Squadron since November. Without the exception to policy, she would have been assigned to the Regimental Support Squadron.
During previous training and deployments, Ryan never had the opportunity to get to know the Soldiers with whom she would be working. The exception to policy changes that.
Ryan said she was thrilled when she received orders to Longknife when the squadron stood up last fall. Being with the unit from the beginning will allow her time to work directly with Soldiers and develop a bond rather than falling in on a support unit for field exercises or a deployment.
“This is a great opportunity to get to know the Soldiers and a chance to feel out any issues,” Ryan said. “We are already working together as a team.”
Second Lt. Catherine Waugh, the chemical officer for Fires Squadron, 3rd Cav. Regt., has been in the unit for four months and is happy for the opportunity to work in an artillery squadron.
“I enjoy where I work,” Waugh, who is on her first assignment since commissioning, said. “This was probably the best time to start (the exception to policy) so we can get everyone used to working as a team.”
Many of the Soldiers Ryan and Waugh work with now have never worked directly with female Soldiers on a day-to-day basis, but things have gone well.
“We’ve been well-received,” Ryan said. “They respect us.”
Currently, nine female Soldiers have been assigned to Longknife Squadron. Fires Squadron has six.
Both Waugh and Ryan are excited to see the feedback once the exception to policy is reviewed and anxious to see what is next.
“This opens up more jobs and greater opportunities for us in the Army,” Ryan said.
Under DGCAR, six military occupational specialties previously closed to women because they were normally co-located with direct combat units will also open up.
They include Multiple Launch Rocket System Crewmembers (13M); MLRS Operations/Fire Detection Specialist (13P); Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator Specialist (13R); M1 Abrams Tank System Maintainer (91A); Bradley Fighting Vehicle System Maintainer (91M) and Artillery Mechanic (91P).
The Army’s removal of “co-location” from its policy opens to women the six specialties in 80 units, down to the battalion level, Brig. Gen. Barrye L. Price, director of Human Resources Policy, Army G-1, said.
“With the removal of co-location, a little over 13,000 billets will open for women to compete for assignment. And women now for the first time will be allowed to assess into these six specialties,” Price said.
“So, we’ll have to actually now recruit women for these specialties, which they have not in the past,” he said.
At Fort Hood, the goal is 35 female Soldiers per selected brigade.
III Corps G-1 Col. Lorri Golya said the post will continue to work toward that goal by distributing females within the designated brigades’ maneuver battalions.
“We will build to meet the 35,” she said. “We may or may not make that goal, but we will continue to work toward it.”
Golya said Fort Hood is being deliberate in filling positions.
“We’ve got to put the right Soldier in the right place at the right time,” she said.
Currently, the brigades at Hood are only filling unencumbered slots.
“We are taking into account professional development, encumbered positions, inbound personnel and ensuring we execute this properly,” Golya said. “We have no intention of moving personnel out of encumbered slots.”
Most positions, Golya added, are battalion staff slots.
The exception to policy will also be assessed at one brigade at Fort Carson, Colo; one brigade at Fort Knox, Ky.; one brigade at Fort Drum, N.Y.; one brigade at Fort Campbell, Ky.; and two brigade combat teams in Hawaii, Price said.
Within the nine brigades, the exception to DGCAR opens select positions to women in direct combat units at the battalion level in 37 battalions in which women have not served before, totaling about 755 Army positions across nine brigade combat teams.
“This war, more than any, has shaped and informed our views on opening the aperture for women, based on what they’re actually doing, what they’ve actually achieved,” Price said.
At Fort Hood, Golya agreed that female Soldiers have already been working closely with combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Price said the work of these female Soldiers has changed the way they are perceived.
“I think that really 11 years of persistent conflict has really shaped our views, not just internally to the DOD, but also societal views, as what more pronounced role women may play,” he said.
Golya said the exception is good for the brigades.
“This gives the Army a greater pool to fill these positions,” she said. “It opens up that population pool.”
The Department of Defense’s intent to implement the exception to policy was first announced in the DoD Women in the Services Restrictions Review released in February.
The Army will assess the impact of this exception to policy over a six-month period, Price said, and provide a joint-service report with the assessment period results and corresponding recommendations to the secretary of defense in November. The Army intends to begin executing those recommendations shortly thereafter, he said.
“This has been a great growth experience for our nation, at large,” Price said.
Right now, women comprise about 17 percent of the Army, Price said. He said the exception to policy will have 36 percent of the positions open to women in the 37 battalions affected.
“It’s actually a little more than twice the proportion of women in the Army,” Price said.
Over the next six months, he said the Army will look at duty performance, not just of the women, but of the entire organizations.
“We’ll assess training and occupational injury rates, we’ll assess cohesion and morale, both unit and individual readiness, and we’ll assess recruiting and retention rates, but that will be over time.
Price said the assessment will affect the next steps the Army makes. He said the Army might go back to Congress and ask for greater authorities to open all of the brigade combat teams to women in certain specialties.
Price said he knows the first person who will be assigned from the top of this system to this exception to policy will be a female chaplain who’s going to one of these battalions where she would not have had the opportunity to serve, prior to this.
“Our women are certainly looking forward to it, and they’ve certainly earned the right on the battlefield,” Price said.
“Opening these positions provides a greater pool of qualified Soldiers from which our Army will draw, which maximizes our military capabilities and reduces operational tempo for those deployed.
“Policy is often informed by practice and the evolving nature of modern warfare, and that the outstanding service of our modern Soldiers demonstrates this is the right thing to do for our Soldiers, our all-volunteer Army, and for our nation,” Price said.