WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 14, 2014) – The Army has opened about 3,600 Field Artillery officer positions to women.
The move was officially announced in a directive issued March 4 from Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
“Opening these positions ensures the Army is properly managing the talent of all our service members, balancing readiness and the needs of a smaller force, and positioning all Soldiers for success with viable career paths,” said Col. Linda Sheimo, chief of the Command Programs and Policy Division at the Human Resources Policy Directorate, Army G-1. “We notified Congress last year of the pending opening of 13A (Field Artillery) positions to female officers, from those in cannon battalions down to platoon-level.”
The openings do not include positions in Special Operations, she added.
“The Army’s plan to re-validate performance standards is all about increasing total force capability and preparing the force for future mission requirements,” said Sheimo. “Army senior leaders are committed to providing the most ready all-volunteer force, which sustains its capability to defend this great nation at home and abroad.”
The number breaks down to about 1,900 positions within the active component, and about 1,700 in the Reserve Components, she said.
Field Artillery officers are multi-functional professionals who are the Army’s experts in the coordination, synchronization and integration of joint fires and Army fires. They lead field artillery troops and combined armed forces during land combat and they must be able to perform some of the physical demands of their cannon crew members, if necessary.
The standards include performing land navigation tasks over a distance of up to five miles; qualifying with an assigned weapon; lifting 90-to-100-pound projectiles to waist level and transporting them 20-30 meters wearing 18 pounds above the basic uniform; combatives training; completing field training exercises; operating a howitzer and partnering with a Soldier to lift 204 pounds to the waist level.
The Army of the future will require more mental agility, teamwork and resilience from all Soldiers, regardless of gender, Sheimo said.
“Army senior leaders will continue to ensure all leaders and Soldiers have opportunities to maximize their potential and are postured for success through viable career paths, she said.”
In May 2012, the Army removed co-location as a restriction under the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for the assignment of women. This opened positions in Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS units, that were previously closed to Field Artillery female officers. In addition, three enlisted Field Artillery military occupational specialties opened. Those were 13M – Multiple Launch Rocket System or MLRS/HIMARS Crewmember, 13P – Multiple Launch Rocket System Operations/Fire Direction Specialist, and 13R – Firefinder Radar Operator.
Women now serve in 95 percent of all Army occupations, and make up about 15.7 percent of the active Army.
As the military integrates women into combat roles that were previously closed to them, the Army is scientifically evaluating the physical and mental requirements of its jobs, or military occupational specialties known as MOSs, according to Training and Doctrine Command , the Army’s lead for verifying the occupational physical performance requirements for each MOS.
“The combat readiness of our Army must remain the first priority,” Gen. Robert W. Cone said. “While this integration requires a well-thought out approach, I am confident we can do this right and improve the total force.”
“It’s about Soldiers,” he said. “Men and women will have the same opportunity to succeed and are equally postured for success in viable career paths.”
Standards are not being lowered, according to Cone. But rather, the Army is scientifically determining the physical performance demands for Soldiers to perform the physically demanding tasks of their occupations.
“As the TRADOC commander, I can’t lower organizational performance — our hard-earned reputation is combat-ready formations,” he said. “We can make this a better Army by uniformly imposing these valid standards across the board.”