A female soldier with civil affairs walks a patrol in Afghanistan. Soon, combat jobs will be open to women who can meet the Army's gender-neutral standards. (Defense Department)
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The Army is establishing gender-neutral standards to identify who is capable and qualified to get the job done — any job.
Combat fields opening to women will be the first to see the change, but standards will be set for every military occupational specialty.
Officials are adamant this will neither lower standards so women can qualify, nor raise standards to exclude them from certain jobs. The goal: Identify the physical requirements demanded of each MOS and use that measure as a go or no-go for entry into the career field regardless of gender.
“This is all about success,” said Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, at a June 18 press conference. “We’re calling it ‘Soldier 2020.’ You’ll notice it’s ‘soldier’ for 2020. It’s not male soldier or female soldier. We’re not changing standards, but we’re going to clearly make sure we understand all those standards and they’re related to a specific task that’s required by that position.”
The Army will use a five-phase approach to establish MOS standards, said David Brinkley, deputy chief of staff, operations and plans for Training and Doctrine Command.
Physical tasks required for each MOS will be identified in Phase 1. Standards will not be eased for women, or for any soldier.
“We’re hearing from the force the need to maintain standards,” said Peter Kerekanich, deputy study director at TRADOC’s Analysis Center, or TRAC. “As long as those are maintained, units will be able to maintain readiness, high morale and their combat effectiveness. We’ll be a better Army as a result of it.”
The goal is to identify the physical demands required of any soldier in a given specialty.
“The 155mm artillery round weighs 96 pounds,” Brinkley said. “Ninety have to go into an ammunition carrier in a certain amount of time, and that is just one requirement to be a 13B field artilleryman. You have to be able to move that ammo around. It doesn’t matter what your gender is.”
And that is just one test. Thirty-one physical demands will be tested in each MOS. Some will be job-specific, such as loading tank shells and tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles; pulling casualties out of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle; or moving a heavy bridge. Common tasks such as throwing a grenade will also be included.
Officials will have at least 50 soldiers tested for MOS-specific tasks and several hundred for each of the common tasks, Brinkley said.
Tests were scheduled for the week of June 24 at Fort Hood, Texas —the fifth and final location officials will test.
Eight brigade combat teams will participate in the study: two armored, one cavalry, two fires, one maneuver enhancement, one engineer and one airborne.
A random selection of soldiers from across the force was pulled for the tests. Test administrators are finding that standards are accurate for the “vast majority” of soldiers, Brinkley said.
The next three phases are closely integrated. Phase 2 will kick off in August. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine will independently and scientifically evaluate and validate all data.
Phase 3 will use focus groups and a job analysis questionnaire that will ask soldiers in an MOS to identify what the tasks should be, what they look like and what is most important, said Marilyn Sharp, lead investigator at USARIEM. Details aren’t final on how the questionnaire will be available, but an online version is likely.
In Phase 4, predictive tests that simulate the most demanding and physical tasks will be designed. In these tests, skill is minimized so the physically demanding aspects of strength, speed and aerobic capacity are tested.
“Skill can be taught,” Sharp said. “There is a limit on how much you can improve a person’s physical capabilities. Some people can never be trained enough to actually perform a job. That’s what we want to identify.”
At least 200 seasoned soldiers will be tested in tasks to validate and establish standards for each MOS. All of the soldiers must be volunteers, and volunteers will be sought before and during tests at various posts.
The tests will be applied in Phase 5.
Standards for MOSs
Standards will first be established for seven MOSs: 11B Infantryman, 11C Mortarman, 12B Combat Engineer, 13B Cannon Crewmember, 13F Fire Support Specialist, 19D Cavalry Scout and 19K Armor Crewman.
These provide a logical starting point, Brinkley said. They are career fields opening to women and are among those with the highest physical demands.
Fittingly, engineers will make the path that others will follow. The engineer field needs little integration as ithas a large population of female officers and noncommissioned officers. All MOSs from 12C through 12W are open to women, and many have similar tasks and capabilities as combat engineers. Combat engineers already conduct integrated training with female engineers.
The Army will then tackle field artillery, which has women but fewer than among engineers. Field artillery has a cadre to help minimize the cultural impact when women become cannon crewmembers, Brinkley said.
From there, the Army will set standards forarmor and infantry.
The combat engineer career field should be open to women by the end of 2014, Brinkley said. Artillery will follow in 2015. Infantry and armor should open by the end of 2015 or early 2016.
Establishing the standards is half the battle. Next comes integration. TRAC is conducting “deliberate and incremental” cultural and institutional studies to capture the impact gender integration has on unit readiness, morale and esprit de corps.
Changes may be ahead for assignments, reporting processes and how the active force will align with reserve forces.
But addressing cultural matters will take a little more time.
“Whether those beliefs are real or perceived, they may impact how units have to address cultural changes as they go forward,” said Col. Lynette Arnhart, deputy director and senior military analyst for TRAC.
Sexual assault is a major concern. The vast majority occur in the barracks on weekends when alcohol is involved. But cultural perception also plays a key factor.
Units now closed to women will not be overwhelmed with additional sexual assault training, officials said. The same training will be given to all soldiers, and the same response is expected of all soldiers.
“We are going to run across some aspects that are absolutely positive, we’re going to find some that are neutral and we might find some that are negative,” Kerekanich said. “If we find any that are negative, we are going to try to find mitigating strategies.”
Officials did not say what kind of actions may be taken.
Ultimately, this comes down to standards of behavior, values and leadership enforcing those standards, he said.
“One of the things we are finding is that among people who have not worked extensively with women before, there are misperceptions regarding capability, competence and credibility,” Arnhart said. “As soldiers gain experience working with other soldiers, those misperceptions will decrease and go away. It may take a generation or two before [the misperceptions] are completely gone.”
The Army will provide the defense secretary with updates every 90 days.
“We’re finding that the majority of the troops support this initiative, but with a desire to maintain standards and professional environment,” Brinkley said. “Are we going to have some bad apples out there? Yes, but the Army has ways of dealing with that.”
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