22 women to train at Benning for combat roles
As the Army marches forward with gender integration, a major step in that process will happen this summer at Fort Benning when 22 women are assigned to the Armor and Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Courses.
Most of the women are currently at the West Point Army academy or in ROTC and will be commissioned as officers when they graduate. Thirteen will enter the armor field and nine will join infantry, according to USA Today.
Late last year, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter officially opened all military jobs, including combat positions, to qualified men and women. Much of the training for those jobs in the Army is done at Fort Benning.
Both of the Basic Officer Leadership Courses are held at Fort Benning, where the Armor and Infantry schools are located under the banner of the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
During a visit to Fort Benning recently, Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy said the standards for the courses will not change with the admission of women as they move into combat arms.
“We are very clear: our Army is about one standard,” Murphy said. “We are a standards-based Army and we always were and we always will be. If a man or woman can meet the standard, they can go on to any MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) they choose to.”
But the reality of it is, most Americans can’t meet the standards to go into the Army, Murphy said.
“Most men in our Army can’t get through Ranger School,” he said. “Most women won’t be able to get through Ranger School, but if they can get through it, they absolutely have the opportunity.”
This won’t be the first time Benning has been in the spotlight as a result of gender integration. A year ago, women were admitted to Ranger School for the first time.
The Maneuver Center plans to handle the integration similar to the way it did when women were first admitted to Ranger School a year ago, Fort Benning spokesman Bob Purtiman said.
Though allowing media access to Ranger School, the Army did not release the names of the women until graduation. Capt. Kristen Griest, 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Maj. Lisa Jaster became the first women to earn Ranger tabs from the elite combat leadership school.
The armor course is 19 weeks, while the infantry course lasts 17 weeks.
On the armor side, students do field-training exercises and learn maneuver tactics, platoon and company-level strategy and logistical planning, among other skills.
On the infantry side, leadership, tactics and technical competence are stressed. Like the armor course, there is field work and classroom study.
While at Fort Benning, Murphy met briefly with one of the 22 women, a recent Officer Candidate School graduate who will be attending the Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course.
The Army will be better because of gender integration, Murphy said.
“We have developed a leaders-first policy because we want to make sure all of our soldiers succeed,” he said. “We want to make sure we have leaders in those company areas — commanders, lieutenants, staff sergeants, etc. — in there and ready to go.”
Murphy is familiar with some of the women who will be attending the Basic Officer Leadership Courses.
“I have seen some of the backgrounds,” he said. “These women choosing to go into combat arms are incredible athletes. They will get after it and they will do it. I am confident they will pass, and they will pass because it is one standard. They are not asking for lower standards. They will demand not a lower standard. They will demand that they are just as good if not better than the men they are competing with.”