While women are not yet allowed to operate under any capacity as a soldier, the Army is taking steps to make service in the military less dependent on gender.
More than 100,000 jobs remain closed to women who wish to become soldiers or progress in their military careers, but the Department of Defense reported Feb. 2 that about 33,000 positions previously closed to women will be opened to willing applicants. The new policy will take effect in April and only exclude designations under Special Operations command.
A serious initiative
The military is still not entirely open to women serving in combat roles, but this policy change represents a step in the right direction, Col. Linda Sheimo believes. Sheimo serves as chief of the Command Programs and Policy Division at the Directorate of Military Personnel Management.
"When we complete congressional notification in April 2014, the Army will have opened approximately 55,000 positions to women, across all three components, since May 2012. " Sheimo told the DOD.
The program also takes a new look at military occupational specialties, or MOSs. Of the 400 MOSs across the Army today, only 14 do not allow women. These specifications, like the 13B Cannon Crewmember that requires the handling of ammunition and operating large artillery, remain restricted to men primarily due to reasons of physical suitability.
But as military officials continue a process or reevaluating all MOSs, Sheimo says it may not be that way for long.
"Ensuring we have clear standards for all soldiers will ensure the best soldiers are assigned to positions, something the Army is calling the 'Soldier of 2020,'" she told the DOD. "What we are trying to do is get the best Solders for the future. The Army's efforts across various spectrums will ensure all soldiers have the opportunity to serve successfully."
March toward progress
With so many options likely opening up for female soldiers in the future, it is no surprise that the percentage of women serving in the Armed Forces has continued to rise. According to data provided on the Army's website, only 9.8 percent of all soldiers in 1983 were women. Ten years later in 1993, that number had jumped to 12.5 percent. In 2012, women represented 15.7 percent of all soldiers.
The collection of women serving in senior positions has also continued to rise over the last few decades, as officer grades, executive civilian position, and DOD appointments are increasingly being filled by women.