The Army has submitted to the Defense Department its plan to open its infantry, armor and special operations ranks to women.
The implementation plan comes one month after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced his decision to lift all gender-based restrictions on military service starting in January. The move paved the way for women to serve in these previously all-male specialties.
The plan, which is supposed to outline how the Army will integrate the newly opened occupations and positions, is now being reviewed and discussed as part of the implementation working group co-chaired by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Army officials could not say when the plan might be rolled out or approved by senior DoD leaders.
The working group is tasked with overseeing the "short- term implementation" of Carter's decision and ensuring there are no "unintended consequences on the joint force," Carter said Dec. 3 when he announced his decision and the creation of the working group.
"Implementation won't happen overnight," Carter said at the time. "While at the end of the day this will make us a better and stronger force, there still will be problems to fix and challenges to overcome. We shouldn't diminish that. At the same time, we should also remember that the military has long prided itself on being a meritocracy, where those who serve as judged not based on who they are or where they come from, but rather what they have to offer to help defend this country."
Carter's decision opens nearly 220,000 jobs across the military — that's about 10 percent of the force — to women, and it allows the military to tap into the "broadest possible pool of talent" as it builds "America's force of the future," Carter said at the time.
"There will be no exceptions," he said. "This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they never could before. They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They'll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers, and everything else that previously was open only to men."
Before the Dec. 3 announcement, the Army in the past three years has opened about 95,216 positions and nine occupations to women. This includes the combat engineer (12B) and cannon crewmember (13B) military occupational specialties.
The Army also conducted a gender-integrated assessment of and later opened its storied Ranger School. Three women have graduated from the course to earn the coveted Ranger tab.
The remaining positions in the Army and the other services will be open "as soon as practicable," and the services must be ready to execute those plans no later than April 1, according to DoD.
Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.