Wanted: Women in top military roles
February 22nd, 2012
11:14 AM ET

Wanted: Women in top military roles

From Paula Broadwell, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Paula Broadwell is the author of “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus”

The Department of Defense announced last week that 14,000 combat-related positions in front-line support units and combat battalions would soon be open to women. In part, that simply recognizes what women have been doing for the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan .

The announcement is a small step in the right direction, but female military leaders need more opportunities – now. The Pentagon needs to expand experimental programs for women to gain leadership experience because most current openings are filled by candidates who have experience leading combat brigades and battalions, e.g., male officers. Women are qualified to serve as officers in combat units that will prepare them for senior levels of leadership, and they want to. Without that experience, however, the pathway to the top is a very narrow one.

On six book-writing reporting trips to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, I interviewed female medics who had saved men on the battlefield, female officers on "cultural support teams" who supported Special Operations night raids, female military police who manned machine guns atop Humvees, and female helicopter pilots who flew into "hot" landing zones taking enemy fire. I saw women in Afghanistan effectively plan and oversee ground assaults, air operations and artillery strikes in Kandahar this past year. Recognizing their courage and the valuable skills they bring to improving combat effectiveness is important. Yet with 34 percent of the jobs in the Army and 32 percent in the Marine Corps still closed to women, work remains to be done. Opening more of these combat support positions for women is important for increasing the opportunities they have to lead at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels - and thus help them advance to senior levels of leadership.

Change has come slowly in the military. In the early 1970s, women made up less than 2% of the Army. Now it’s roughly 14%. After a decade of war, 280,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan ; 141 have died, and 865 have been wounded. In spite of representation at lower ranks, women only make up 7% of our general officer corps. Army General Ann Dunwoody, the highest-ranking woman in our military, was promoted to four-star general, the first woman so elevated, in 2008. The Air Force, which has opened 99 percent of its jobs to women, including those of fighter pilots, nominated Janet C. Wolfenbarger this month to become its first four-star general. A thoughtful and measured process will ultimately lead to broader support for these advancements. Over time, undoubtedly, there will be more opportunities as the organization recognizes how much women can contribute.

As a West Point graduate and an Army intelligence officer (now in the Army Reserve) involved in counterterrorism missions after Sept. 11, 2001, my first assignment was in an infantry division and I've also worked in the elite, largely male Special Operations Command. My experiences in these male-dominated units were positive, perhaps in part because I was capable of holding my own physically. Many of my sisters-in-arms have served in similar units and proved themselves capable, too. According to a Pentagon study, “research evidence has not shown that women lack the physical ability to perform in combat roles or that gender integration has a negative effect on unit cohesion or other readiness factors.” Most of us do not understand why, if we have proved ourselves physically, mentally, and tactically capable of leading on the frontlines, that we’d not be qualified for certain opportunities.

The 2011-2012 Pentagon review of the 1994 ground combat exclusion policy looked at five issues related to women’s roles, concluding that some changes were necessary, and others required more study. The review dictated that women should still not be allowed to serve in many combat positions for three reasons: berthing and privacy issues were cost prohibitive; long-range reconnaissance and special operations activities were too dangerous and involve combat; and the inherent tasks would be too physically demanding for women. The review did rescind two of the five constraints that restricted women's roles in combat – allowing women to now serve in direct combat units below brigade level and to be located with combat units. Pilot programs such as those allowing women to officially be assigned to direct combat units, less the infantry, for example, will test the former. Restrictions on co-location were already obsolete; in Iraq and Afghanistan women have out of necessity routinely been filling intelligence, military police, engineer, staff roles and other positions in close proximity to – and often directly on – the front lines. In reality, neither change is a bold stroke. Without opening up more positions on the frontlines, women will not gain the necessary exposure to leading in combat that the Pentagon has deemed necessary for strategic leadership assignments.

This debate is not about equal opportunity, however; the true metric here is whether a woman’s contributions improve combat effectiveness. These wars have shown they do, as gunners, medics, or engineers, according to many of my male colleagues who have served alongside women in war. To ensure that they are contributing to combat effectiveness, the standards of performance should be “gender neutral.”

Although I am a fierce advocate for women's opportunities, I understand why the Pentagon has not fully repealed the military's prohibition on women serving in artillery, infantry and tanks units engaged in "direct" ground combat, at least not until pilot programs allow them to prove their mettle. The “big Army” is taking longer to review these changes in part because there are not a lot of women who are both interested and capable, but that’s not a reason to exclude those who are.

This debate is not unique to the U.S. military. Many of our allies have shown more forward thinking than the Pentagon, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Australia. In these countries, women serve in various “close combat roles” defined as "engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with the hostile forces personnel." Though women’s representation is small, they contribute. The Australian contingent in Afghanistan has demonstrated that women add value and have not disrupted the emotional dynamic of units on the frontlines.

What should DoD do? First, as we draw down in Afghanistan and begin adapting the force for the next fight, it makes sense to accelerate the pilot programs while we are still at war and there are real world opportunities to test women, including in infantry units. Additionally, one area where pilot programs for is in elite, small, highly disciplined special operations units, organizations which pride themselves in adaptivity and agility. Women have, in fact, demonstrated their abilities in this community through their work on all female cultural support teams and as operators attached to Special Forces and Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan . These women are not trained as “fighters,” per se, but they do receive enhanced training in self-defense, tactical exploitation, and the physical requirements associated with getting into and out of target sites.

Opening the 14,000 jobs, and others, will give women the opportunity for further service on the frontlines and create more opportunities for advancement. They will help burnish women's combat credentials and give them the experience of fighting or commanding in combat situations. And as the Pentagon study pointed out, opening these jobs to women will alleviate some of the deployment pressures facing men in these fields.

The Pentagon should move swiftly and in broader strokes to accelerate these pilot programs and expand them to include leadership opportunities in more combat arms positions.

Here’s the bottom line: mentally and tactically, we are capable. Establish the physical requirement for being an infantryman and allow women who meet it to prove themselves. We as a nation want the best and brightest to attain these jobs, but so far the U.S. military has not allowed our best and brightest women the necessary experience.

Now is the time to correct that course by expanding the experimental programs in front-line support units and combat battalions.

Paula Broadwell graduated from West Point and had assignments with the U.S. intelligence community, U.S. Special Operations Command and an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. She is the author of the recently published All In: The Education of General David Petraeus and spent months embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Justice Department • Military
soundoff (442 Responses)
  1. www.pharmaceptica.com

    tadalafil citrate https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 29, 2021 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  2. pharmaceptica

    how does chloroquine work https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  3. pharmacepticacom

    tadalafil without a doctor prescription https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 27, 2021 at 12:04 am | Reply
  4. pharmaceptica

    hydroxychloroquine side effects eye https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 23, 2021 at 7:00 am | Reply
  5. pharmacepticacom

    erectile organ https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 22, 2021 at 3:48 pm | Reply
  6. pharmacepticacom

    is hydroxychloroquine safe to take https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 22, 2021 at 10:57 am | Reply
  7. pharmaceptica

    chloroquin side effects https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 20, 2021 at 6:40 am | Reply
  8. Colbyhla

    Romion thee Tumblr

    can you picture believe very good connected with husband's comments Ron Weasley would definitely be? how good of a parent? i simply visualizing Ron and Hermione partnership that you just hard hitting and spectacular this.I invested in quarantine reading my article the information at last seeing that grow old 10, anyone of my favorite breakthroughs been recently which way completely and staunchly dedicated and storage Ron is, Especially with regards to Hermione. usurping the exploration for Buckbeak interest any time you are from the accused at a loss for investigation in POA). promising that they receive your girlfriend whereas this cousin but also train types tree buy that certainly not for the she register put Muggleborn ; in fact pestering Bellatrix to torture her dad instead of the doll.)and i also picturing regarding converting thus to their deliver showdown one's life and their spousal relationship. Hermione returning from the day elizabeth ministry and explored and Ron wihtout a doubt having to deal with meal realized and all of the youngsters shampooed. Ron the subject of implementing her very own lunch or dinner to choose to adopt your job my wife days fearing as particularly smallish absolutely love notices ; the making of her coffee and trouble-free her and just really being with your ex-girlfriend on a hours in which the woman with located getting into rules and regulations. remaining completely overprotective any time you are your lady baby.(the foregoing seriously is comprised of the advantage that Ron gives his job as an Auror to drive the laugh shop around with George and it is impossible convince i am that who had nothing related he and Hermione ranging children portrait)after which you'll generally there Hermione, which of you helps to keep chnlove scam Ron grounded, what kind of person halts him far from moving nevertheless storage which he puts him or her self in danger. the real estate sector it multiple times over the collection of, which is where this lady has to prevent the pup backwards produced by fighting Malfoy in their criminal. and that i catch sight of this fact translation very nicely over to their nuptials extremely.shopping for stop him provided by about way too far/getting very little arrested at what time went up by is being bullied (and also simply finding the more unobtrusive ways for you to your canine grant those people people youthful nightmare.) returning after the newest long day where you work and even discovering that Ron expressed just as long per day, knowning that the kids are running savings around your house yelling, in which he encounters your woman's and laments that they hasn produced event still and she actually kisses her dad on your head and goes out to obtain french fries (get wizards buy? what you do becoming.)all around, the two of them appreciate each other any better than are you (like in goblet involved with light at the time Hermione is capable of explain to Harry for what reason Ron is resentful.) the companies be sure you turn to each other for comfortable and then secure each other undyingly, and thus keep in mind that this can produce their wedlock.in my mind, Ron in addition to Hermione bridal will be erected on shared completely love, admiration, a friendly relationship or believe, this is because had a large selection of weak points when that has worked so for a long time to grow up from. It revealing all their conditions in addition to troubles positive neither one advisors will seriously affected. the tonneau's probable to generally be completely insightful with one another, despite your past. it all irreverent bickering that particular evolves around having a laugh and furthermore obtaining, in addition specific justifications exactly who develop right into offering various other closer hey there whispering I.who's a short time dropped hugging the actual other hand sofa, your girlfriendmione placing go lap in Ron in addition to the researching him nothing but experiencing thinking of successful estimates how he. one getting out of bed in the night as well as,while carrying various other to assist us to with nightmares. the program creating a happy natural, layered with seeing moreover fooling paying attention betting Quidditch, a place where by by delight overflows and consequently their kids often learn, most importantly, that they can be beloved, And they have someone behind them. michael's owner.

    June 18, 2021 at 8:52 am | Reply
  9. buy chloroquine online canada

    hydochloroquine hydroxychloroquine coronavirus hydroxychloroquine 200 mg twice a day

    June 14, 2021 at 4:23 am | Reply
  10. fipleVed

    why is cialis so expensive 2016 sublingual cialis when will generic cialis become available

    June 10, 2021 at 1:36 am | Reply
  11. fipleVed

    order cialis without prescription cialis sore throat dapoxetin,cialis

    June 10, 2021 at 12:44 am | Reply
  12. clupsAsd

    cialis & dapoxitine cialis sell on internet by australia company cialis purchase

    June 10, 2021 at 12:07 am | Reply
  13. VelmSwa

    lowest price cialis cialis 10 mg price cialis online melbourne

    June 9, 2021 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  14. reextAni

    canadadrugs safest online pharmacy best mail order pharmacy canada

    June 9, 2021 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  15. reextGtv

    store hours for walmart pharmacy medical pharmacies canadian colleges of clinical pharmacy

    June 9, 2021 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  16. reextAni

    lustra cream canadian pharmacy prescription drugs interaction online pharmacy cash on delivery

    June 9, 2021 at 11:28 am | Reply
  17. private detectives madrid

    Howdy this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if
    you have to manually code with HTML. I'm starting
    a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I
    wanted to get advice from someone with experience.

    Any help would be enormously appreciated!

    June 9, 2021 at 10:54 am | Reply
  18. fipleloh

    how much is cialis with insurance cialis tablets is cialis covered by blue cross blue shield

    June 9, 2021 at 8:36 am | Reply
  19. reextDev

    the pharmacy store phentermine canadian pharmacies store safe to use indian pharmacy online shopping

    June 9, 2021 at 7:04 am | Reply
  20. reextGtv

    canadian dog pharmacy Sinequan online canadian pharmacy coupon

    June 9, 2021 at 5:54 am | Reply
  21. clupsAsd

    cialis generic best price that accepts mastercard dapoxetine cialis cialis onlilne

    June 9, 2021 at 3:56 am | Reply
  22. reextHtf

    cialis female experience cialis dosage sizes buy cialis via pay pal

    June 9, 2021 at 1:49 am | Reply
  23. fipleloh

    dosage for cialis compare viagra cialis cialis san diego

    June 8, 2021 at 8:21 pm | Reply
  24. reextHtf

    cialis how long before intercourse can i buy cialis over the counter cialis no prescrip

    June 8, 2021 at 12:31 pm | Reply
  25. VelmSwa

    cialis san diego mastercard cialis canadian pharmacy no prescription generic cialis

    June 7, 2021 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  26. reextDev

    Grifulvin V online pharmacy drug store canada pharmacies online pharmacy

    June 7, 2021 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  27. cialis pills

    side effects for tadalafil cialis tadalafil medication

    June 7, 2021 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  28. chloroquine online

    hydroxychloroquine what is it raoult coronavirus hydrchloroquine

    June 6, 2021 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  29. tadalafil liquid

    tadalis 20 mg tadalafil price walmart tadalafil xtenda 20 mg

    June 6, 2021 at 12:31 am | Reply
  30. tadalafil warnings

    tadalafil generic tadalafil powder suppliers tadalafil tablets

    June 5, 2021 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  31. cialis generic

    tadalafil tablets buy cialis online tadalafil peptide

    June 5, 2021 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  32. renaud muselier

    chloroquina hydroxychloroquine where to buy chloroquine phosphate side effects

    June 5, 2021 at 6:27 am | Reply
  33. fipleVed

    what\'s works better viagra or cialis? cialis uk over the counter cialis refractory period

    June 3, 2021 at 2:51 pm | Reply
  34. fipleVed

    cost of cialis daily cialis us pharmacy genaric cialis with dapoxetine

    June 3, 2021 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  35. reextGtv

    Naltrexone canadian pharmacy domperidone opioid prescription drugs

    June 3, 2021 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  36. reextAni

    online pharmacy reviews reddit Prilosec canadian pharmacy cialis 5mg

    June 3, 2021 at 5:59 am | Reply
  37. clupsAsd

    buy cialis online overnight cialis 20 mg do you need a prescription for cialis

    June 2, 2021 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  38. reextAni

    prescription drugs become illegal when __________. canadian pharmacy locations cialis canada pharmacy

    June 2, 2021 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  39. VelmSwa

    cialis with diapoxetine buy cialis on line coupons for cialis

    June 2, 2021 at 4:13 pm | Reply
  40. fipleloh

    how much does cialis cost at cvs cialis pre what is the difference between cialis and viagra

    June 2, 2021 at 6:01 am | Reply
  41. reextDev

    online pharmacy store in kolkata canadian pharmacy world reviews shop cvs pharmacy online

    June 2, 2021 at 4:43 am | Reply
  42. reextHtf

    cialis online canada paypal can you overdose on cialis cialis generika china

    June 2, 2021 at 3:48 am | Reply
  43. fipleloh

    natural alternative to cialis how to buy cialis cheap i need cialis overnight

    June 1, 2021 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  44. reextHtf

    20 mg cialis price cheapest cialis in australia acquistare cialis online

    June 1, 2021 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  45. clupsAsd

    cialis with dapoxetine without prescription mastercard cialis wallmart cialis

    June 1, 2021 at 10:49 am | Reply
  46. reextDev

    price pro pharmacy canada cvs drugstore where to dispose of prescription drugs

    May 31, 2021 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  47. fipleloh

    cialis super active plus reviews https://rcialisgl.com/ – sfter market cialis cialis replacement

    May 29, 2021 at 2:49 am | Reply
  48. fipleVed

    how to get a cialis prescription https://krocialis.com/ – female cialis review top web source for cialis

    May 29, 2021 at 12:02 am | Reply
  49. fipleVed

    goodrx cialis https://krocialis.com/ – cialis pharmacy prices purchasing cialis online

    May 28, 2021 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  50. reextGtv

    fda approved online canadian pharmacy canadian drug pharmacy review canadian pharmacies mail order

    May 28, 2021 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  51. fipleloh

    is cialis safer than viagra https://rcialisgl.com/ – herbal form of cialis cialis superactive

    May 28, 2021 at 8:48 am | Reply
  52. reextAni

    viagra super active https://pharmacyken.com/ – animal rx pharmacy offshore pharmacy no prescription

    May 28, 2021 at 5:54 am | Reply
  53. reextDev

    canadian pharmacy ritalin reputable canadian online pharmacies canadian online pharmacy reviews

    May 28, 2021 at 2:47 am | Reply
  54. reextGtv

    viagra online canadian pharmacy gastro health drug rx

    May 28, 2021 at 12:47 am | Reply
  55. reextAni

    types of prescription drugs https://pharmacyken.com/ – canadian pharmacy phone calls express rx pharmacy

    May 27, 2021 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  56. clupsAsd

    cialis without prescriptions uk https://cialisjla.com/ – can i buy cialis local cialis brand

    May 27, 2021 at 6:08 pm | Reply
  57. VelmSwa

    dgeneric cialis https://ckacialis.com/ – how to obtain cialis cheapest generic cialis

    May 27, 2021 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  58. Greryclilteta

    best price usa tadalafil https://tadalafilol.com/ – buy generic cialis online with mastercard what is tadalafil where to buy generic cialis online safely cost tadalafil generic

    May 27, 2021 at 11:58 am | Reply
  59. reextHtf

    cialis 5mg vs 20mg https://cialishav.com/ – cialis how long cialis australia

    May 27, 2021 at 5:32 am | Reply
  60. apposyattance

    where to order tadalafil tablets https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ – tadalafil cost in canada prescription tadalafil online tadalafil order online no prescription https://tadacipetadalafil.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  61. reextHtf

    cialis generic name https://cialishav.com/ – can i take 40mg of cialis cialis 2.5 mg cost

    May 26, 2021 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  62. spearfDrore

    canada generic tadalafil tadalafil goodrx tadalafil cost in canada cheap cialis pills for sale https://cttadalafil.com/ – best price usa tadalafil

    May 26, 2021 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  63. avana

    avanafil stendra dosage buy avanafil usa

    May 26, 2021 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  64. keespamebpaxy

    cialis without a prescription https://tadalafilww.com/ – buy cialis tadalafil drug tadalafil side effects https://tadalafilww.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  65. clupsAsd

    buy cialis no prescription overnight https://cialisjla.com/ – order cialis online no prescription australia cialis shop

    May 26, 2021 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  66. CleplePewCred

    cheapest tadalafil cost tadalafil blood pressure tadalafil online with out prescription lowest price cialis https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ – tadalafil generic

    May 26, 2021 at 5:24 am | Reply
  67. reextDev

    best online pharmacies canada cheap prescription drugs canada online pharmacy without insurance

    May 26, 2021 at 4:06 am | Reply
  68. apposyattance

    https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ side effects of tadalafil https://tadalafilww.com/ – side effects of tadalafil prescription tadalafil online

    May 25, 2021 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  69. Tameika Geant

    My home computer is hooked up to a router. I would like to have access to my home computer's webcam through my work computer. . My home computer is hooked up through a DSL modem and is always on.. My work computer obviously has access to the Internet..

    https://twitter.com/katekdesigns

    May 25, 2021 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  70. keespamebpaxy

    https://tadalafilww.com/ tadalafil without a doctor prescription cost of cialis what is tadalafil tadalafil daily online

    May 25, 2021 at 10:27 am | Reply
  71. spearfDrore

    cialis at canadian pharmacy https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ buy tadalis tadalafil side effects tadalafil without a doctor prescription

    May 25, 2021 at 8:37 am | Reply
  72. Rebffiple

    mexico cialis https://rcialisgl.com/ – cialis free trial phone # female cialis no prescription

    May 25, 2021 at 6:58 am | Reply
  73. Jebgreext

    canadian pharmacy viagra 50 mg http://pharmacylo.com/ Combivir

    May 25, 2021 at 6:43 am | Reply
1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply to clupsAsd


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.