JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (June 27, 2013) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord for two days earlier this week. Chandler, the Army's highest-ranking enlisted Soldier, spoke with senior non-commissioned officers about the direction the Army is taking as it transitions into the future.
One topic of discussion was the future of women in the Army and recent policy changes.
As part of a Department of Defense requirement, last week the Army announced its "Soldier 2020" plan, which describes how it will open up all the remaining combat arms career fields to qualified female Soldiers.
Part of the plan includes development of gender-neutral standards for every military occupational specialty. These new standards will aid leadership in selecting the most qualified Soldiers for any job, regardless of gender, Chandler said.
The new gender-neutral standards should be implemented by 2016, according to the Soldier 2020 plan.
A precursor to the development of these standards is the Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, review of current standards for each Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, which Chandler said has not been done since the 1970s for some career fields.
"Many of our standards are outdated and very old. What we're doing now is looking at the physical requirements for any person, male or female, to serve in an MOS, and once the revised standard is implemented, that will be the standard for anyone to serve in that MOS."
Chandler said this will allow the Army to better "manage talent and make sure that talent is best applied to the positions where it can best serve the Army and its needs," Chandler said.
"As we move to a smaller force but the demand to deploy, fight and win our nation's wars is still very high, we need to manage the available talent pool to the best of our ability. This is about maximizing an individual's ability to serve in our Army the best they can so that we're more effective and efficient."
After addressing the audience, Chandler answered questions about this policy change, including one about misconceptions.
"There's a misconception that female Soldiers won't have to meet the same standards as male Soldiers or that we're going to lower standards. That's just not the case," Chandler said. "This is about one standard applied equally across the force."
Chandler acknowledged, however, that this change won't, and shouldn't, happen overnight.
"We are doing this deliberately and incrementally," he said, noting that conducting needed surveys and developing policies and procedures take time.
"The first and largest obstacle the Army must overcome for integration is the culture," Chandler said. "There is still a perception in some parts of the Army that female Soldiers won't be able to do the same things as their male counterparts, or that we won't be as successful if we have them in combat arms organizations. I think the people saying these things are a vocal minority."
"Female Soldiers have bled and died and sacrificed the same as men have for the past 12 years in this long war," Chandler said. "If they can meet the requirements to be an infantryman or an armored crewman or an engineer or a field artilleryman, then so be it. We'll be a better Army for it."
"I am extremely excited about this and I look forward to seeing more of our female Soldiers as they take advantage of opportunities in the combat arms," Chandler said.