The Bayonet

Tuesday, Mar. 18, 2014

Sgt. Maj. of Army applauds strength, dedication of Army women

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WASHINGTON — “There’s been a lot of bad press” and “a lot of misinformation” about whether or not the Army is lowering its standards by the possibility of opening up military occupational specialties previously closed to women, said the Army’s top enlisted leader.

“No, we’re not” lowering the standards, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III.

Chandler was the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame Reception and Summit at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 12.

This year’s event theme was “Army Women — Resilient and Ready.”

Chandler explained that since 2011, researchers and scientists from U.S. Training and Doctrine Command and other organizations have been validating baseline physical and mental requirements needed for traditionally male-only military occupational specialties, known as MOSs: artillery, infantry, armor and combat engineers.

The MOSs were formally closed per the 1994 Defense Department’s Combat Exclusion Policy, which prohibited women from engaging in direct combat on the ground. Those rules were lifted earlier this year, but validation testing is still in progress.

Since there were no traditional battle lines drawn during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, women in forward operating bases and along the main supply routes often suddenly found themselves on the forward edge of the battle area. And by many accounts, they acquitted themselves well.

The Army is establishing a measurable standard which all Soldiers — male as well as female — will be required to meet, Chandler said, adding that it’s very possible that some male Soldiers who’ve been working in the closed MOSs might not make the cut, while some women will.

By meeting measurable standards, Soldiers of either gender will be provided a path forward “not only to achieve their personal and professional goals, but to fulfill the needs of the Army.

“It’s about managing talent, not providing more opportunities for females,” he said. “It’s about determining who’s best qualified.”

Chandler traveled to Fort Stewart, Ga., to observe the physical demands study and validation process for infantry and armor. Chandler himself was a tanker, one of the closed MOSs, and he said he can attest to the repeated physical demands of loading heavy shells in awkward positions within the confined space inside the tank. Once the physical assessment baseline is completed, he said he’ll go back to the force and expect Soldiers, male or female, to measure up.

Chandler said that in addition to the “closed” MOSs, he expects the Army will validate other MOSs as well.

It’s one thing to open up MOSs to all qualified Soldiers and it’s another thing to change the mindset or culture, he pointed out. Senior leaders will be part of that discussion and TRADOC is taking an active role in facilitating it.

“This is about finding the best talent, the best qualified. We should all be excited about that,” he said.

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