HomeLearning CenterU.S. Military Lacks Female Leadership 10 Years After Last Restrictions Removed for Women

U.S. Military Lacks Female Leadership 10 Years After Last Restrictions Removed for Women

Being a woman in an Army combat unit often means being the only woman in the room. Or the tank.

Staff Sgt. Ricora Jones, 23, recalls being the lone woman on the plane headed to Fort Stewart, a sprawling, swampy, piney post near Savannah and home to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. On the bus from the airport, the same thing: no other women. Six years later, she’s the only woman in the massive Abrams tank that she commands.

Jones plans to become a drill instructor, in part to show young women – and everybody else – that there’s a role for them in combat.

“I don’t think they should look at us women as anything different,” Jones said. “As long the job’s getting done, that’s the No. 1 priority.”

How women could ease recruiting crunch

The Army, facing its worst recruiting crisis since Vietnam, strains to meet its priorities without more soldiers. Women seizing a more prominent role in combat, some soldiers say, could ease the recruiting crunch.

Ten years after the Pentagon repealed the ban on women serving in ground combat positions, female soldiers have risen in the ranks of these frontline units. Yet the intractable problem of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks – reports surged in the Pentagon’s most recent survey – threatens progress. One female combat officer recalled during reporting of this story of being told by a male senior officer that she’d have received better reviews if she had slept with her superiors.

For most soldiers, 63% of whom joined the Army after women became eligible to serve in ground combat jobs, having a woman in charge of their unit is unremarkable.

USA TODAY examined Army data on women in combat jobs, identified some of the more popular fields and spoke to several soldiers, men and women, to assess progress and acceptance. Serving in a combat unit – artillery, armor, infantry or aviation – is nearly a prerequisite to achieving the military’s highest ranks. For example, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is an infantry officer. When a woman attains that rank, she’ll likely come from this generation of combat officers. 

USA Today

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