Senior officials told The Associated Press that two women have now passed the Army’s Ranger test, and even tougher and more dangerous jobs could lie ahead. The military services are prepared to allow women to serve in most front-line combat jobs, including special operations forces.
Officials say the Army, Navy and Air Force likely will not seek exceptions that close any jobs to women. Marine Corps leaders have expressed concerns about allowing women to serve in infantry jobs and may seek an exception.
Once the services are done with their reviews they will have to make their recommendations this fall to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Senior Navy and Defense Department officials both want the military to be united on this issue, so even if Marine leaders object they are likely to meet resistance.
Special Operations Command is likely to allow women to compete for the most demanding military commando jobs such as the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force. On Friday the two women will graduate at Fort Benning, Georgia, from the Ranger school.
Completing the course does let the two women wear the coveted Ranger black-and-gold tab; however it does not let them become members of the Ranger regiment. Neither woman has been publicly identified by the military.
In the Navy and Air Force only a handful of jobs are currently closed to women. However, the Army and Marine Corps, have thousands of infantry, artillery and armor jobs that are closed to women at this time.
Their hesitation over whether to open those positions is because they often involve fighting in small units on the front lines, doing physically punishing tasks. The Marine Corps established a task force this year to set gender-neutral job standards and determine whether including women in small squads affected unit cohesion or combat readiness.
Army leaders did a similar scientific analysis however the Army began to slowly open some combat positions, including artillery jobs, to women. Recently officials familiar with the discussions said they believe the Army will ultimately allow women to seek infantry and armor jobs also.
All the services have made it clear they will not reduce any standards to allow women to qualify for the most demanding jobs. However they reviewed the requirements for the various combat posts to make sure they were directly related to tasks that had to be done as part of the jobs.
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