Directive opens 4,100 special ops positions to women

By David VergunMarch 16, 2015

Directive opens 4,100 special ops positions to women
Then-Maj. Michele P. Harper, a pilot with the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade, out of Morrisville, N.C., prepares for takeoff. At then time, Harper, a Hendersonville, N.C., native was the only female Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the North Carolina A... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (March 13, 2015) -- A directive signed by Army Secretary John M. McHugh, Feb. 25, opened more than 4,100 positions to women in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC.

Directive 2015-08 opened positions in the U.S. Army Special Forces Command, National Guard airborne battalions and tactical psychological teams. Although recent news has focused on female Soldiers attending the pre-Ranger course, USASOC officials said the directive is significant because it opens unit positions in direct operational roles.

"In the aggregate, there have been approximately 5,000 positions opened within the command since 2013," according to a USASOC statement.

About 1,000 positions were opened to women following the 2013 rescinding of the Direct Ground Combat Rule by the defense secretary. This paved the way for more women to serve in direct combat roles and in military occupational specialties that were previously open only to males.

Over the last two years, USASOC has been reviewing all positions that were closed and has maintained a "phased approach to opening of previously closed positions in order to remain synchronized with the Army," an official said.

Since 2013, the integration of women into USASOC has been so rapid that the proportion of females to males serving in USASOC's civil affairs and military information support operations, or MISO, is now comparable to that of women serving in the active Army overall, according to the command. MISO replaced the term psychological operations in 2010.

There are more than 1,000 women assigned to USASOC, and, "based on the recent opening of additional positions, that number will increase over time based on how Human Resources Command locates and assigns Soldiers to the command," according to USASOC.

Most positions with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment - all pilots, crew chiefs, and enabler positions - opened to women as of July 23, 2014, except for 13F, fire support specialist, as it is still a closed military occupational specialty in the Army.

Women have filled many positions and some are now "operationally employed into combat missions," according to a USASOC statement. Additionally, women have been assigned to non-aviation, battalion-level positions within the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

The secretary of the Army's directive has resulted in the Army recoding about 4,000 "enabler positions" down to the battalion level in 1st Special Forces Command and Special Warfare Center and School. "Most likely, this will allow women to be assigned during the normal assignment and move cycle this summer or coming fall," a USASOC official said.

The recent directive will not affect specialties closed Army-wide to women. It will only open USASOC positions in military occupation specialties, or MOS's open to women elsewhere in the Army.


Regarding the 75th Ranger Regiment, USASOC "is synchronized with the Army and U.S. Special Operations Command, SOCOM, efforts as we move forward between now and January 2016 toward making a recommendation" regarding gender integration, officials said.

USASOC "is collaborating with the Army and SOCOM on the physical standards validation for Special Forces Assessment and Selection and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, and with SOCOM's social science studies focused on [Special Operations Forces, or SOF] specific issues," according to the command.

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has been studying all aspects of gender-integration efforts, officials added. All Soldiers are evaluated in a gender-neutral environment with the end goal of identifying the Army's best performers and those with the greatest potential for future service.

"HRC rightly considers factors other than coding of a position for gender in locating and assigning Soldiers to USASOC," according to the command. "Other factors, such as airborne qualification, or willingness to attend Airborne School, and higher deployment tempo considerations bear on the decision to assign the right Soldier to a USASOC unit."


The USASOC Implementation Plan is a deliberate, phased approach that first "assigns senior, experienced female Soldiers to support the expansion of opportunities in USASOC enabler positions and also to newly opened units and positions previously closed to women," according to the command.

USASOC is conducting a review of all special operations jobs and assessing how to further integrate women to support the Army Special Operations Forces 2022, or ARSOF 2022, priority -- Invest in Human Capital.

"The desired end state is enhanced capability, supporting the Army chief of staff's strategic priority to build adaptive Army leaders for a complex world," according to the USASOC statement. "USASOC is committed to maintaining the highest standards and delivering the most qualified operators to the nation, irrespective of gender."

USASOC was actually pursuing gender-integration prior to the 2013 rescinding of the Direct Ground Combat Rule, officials said. Women have been serving in civil affairs and MISO now for nearly 20 years.

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