Celebrating women in the military

By Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, Department of the Army 

“The defense of our nation is a shared responsibility. Women have served in the defense of this land for years before our United States was born.

“They have contributed their talents, skills and courage to this endeavor for more than two centuries, with an astounding record of achievement that stretches from Lexington and Concord to the Persian Gulf and beyond.”

— Retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, Chief of Staff of the Army, 1991-1995

March is Women’s History Month, and Fort Meade will celebrate the observance of this special month on March 17 at McGill Training Center. Follow Soundoff! for further details.

Actions and policy changes taken by the U.S. Army shows that the most powerful force in the world is looking to the future regarding women in the Army.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 mark a pivotal changing point for Army women. As the Army’s mission changed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, so did the roles of women in its ranks.

With the Global War on Terror campaign, there was a rapid expansion of jobs and change in roles for Army women. Beginning in 2016, women have the equal right to choose any military occupational specialty including ground combat units that were previously unauthorized.

One significant female contribution was recognized on June 16, 2005, when Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was awarded the Silver Star for her actions during a firefight that took place outside Baghdad. This was the first Silver Star in U.S. military history awarded to a female Soldier for direct combat action.

Another major impact of women came in 2010 when the Army began utilizing Female Engagement Teams (FET) and Combat Support Teams (CST) in Afghanistan. The primary task of these teams was to engage female populations when such combat was not possible by male service members.

The FET and CST teams perform a number of duties including intelligence gathering, relationship-building and humanitarian efforts.

The role of women in combat positions has been debated throughout American history, even though women have been in the front lines since the Revolutionary War.

In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta signed a document to lift the Defense Department’s ban on women in direct ground combat roles. This historical decision overturned the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule that restricted women from artillery, armor, infantry and other combat roles and military occupational specialties.

Just two years later, on Dec. 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed the full integration of women in the armed forces following a 30-day review period required by Congress, which was completed April 7.

Beginning in January 2016, all military occupations and positions opened to women, without exception. For the first time in U.S. military history, as long as they qualify and meet specific standards, women are able to contribute to the Department of Defense mission with no barriers in their way.

The most powerful Army in the world is now the most inclusive force the world has ever seen!

Find more information about Women’s History Month online.

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