By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 11, 2016) -- The Army will begin training women for infantry and armor specialties later this year, according to its Gender Integration Implementation Plan released March 10.
The plan will be executed in phases, first bringing female officers into combat arms this summer after they graduate from the U.S. Military Academy, ROTC or Officer Candidate School.
Enlisted recruits are expected to begin training in infantry and armor MOSs beginning this fall. By the time they graduate Advanced Individual Training and report to their first combat units, female officers will already be there. It's part of the Army's "leader-first" approach to integrate the last 19 military occupational specialties that had been closed to women.
"We're not going to turn our back on 50 percent of the population," said Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy. "We are opening up every occupation to women. I think that's pretty historic."
The Army is currently in the first phase of its integration plan. It has developed gender-neutral standards and is educating the force about its implementation policies.
"An incremental and phased approach by leaders and Soldiers who understand and enforce gender-neutral standards will ensure successful integration of women across the breadth and depth of our formations," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.
The Army has also been developing a new Occupational Physical Assessment Test. The OPAT will be administered to recruits beginning no later than June, according to Phase II of the plan.
OPAT includes physical performance tests developed by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. These tests will measure the ability of a recruit or cadet to perform physically demanding MOS tasks.
The new test will include a standing long jump, a dead lift, an interval run and a seated power throw to measure strength needed for tasks such as loading ammunition.
Phase II is the initiation of gender-neutral training. It begins April 1 as the Army starts enlisting women under the Delayed Entry Program for armor and infantry One-Station Unit Training or OSUT. Training won't actually begin for the enlistees until fall and could be delayed for up to a year until they graduate high school.
Phase III involves assigning women to operational units. Again, female officers will be assigned to infantry and armor units first, to prepare the way for enlisted Soldiers to arrive at end of the year.
Phase IV is "Sustain and Optimize." In this phase the Army achieves full operational capability and revalidates MOS screening requirements. Through talent management, it continues to select the best Soldiers for the right jobs, according to the plan.
Over the last four years, the Army has opened a substantial number of positions to female Soldiers. The Army opened 95,216 positions and nine occupations to women between May 2012 and October 2015, including combat engineer (12B) and artillery MOSs.
The first female cannon crew member, 13B, graduated this month from Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, at the top of her class.
Now under the Army's Gender Integration Implementation Plan, the final 19 MOSs will provide an additional 220,000 job opportunities to female Soldiers, though that number may change based on end strength reductions and ongoing force structure changes.
Following are the 19 MOSs within infantry, armor and Special Forces that will incrementally open to women:
-- 11A (Infantry Officer)
-- 11B (Infantryman)
-- 11C (Indirect Fire Infantryman)
-- 11Z (Infantry Senior Sergeant)
-- 13F (Fire Support Specialist)
-- 19D (Cavalry Scout)
-- 19A (Armor, General)
-- 19B (Armor)
-- 19C (Cavalry)
-- 19K (Armor Crewmember)
-- 19Z (Armor Senior Sergeant)
-- 18A (Special Forces Officer)
-- 180A (Special Forces Warrant Officer)
-- 18B (Special Forces Weapons Sergeant)
-- 18C (Special Forces Engineer Sergeant)
-- 18D (Special Forces Medical Sergeant)
-- 18E (Special Forces Communications Sergeant)
-- 18F (Special Forces Assistant Operations and Intelligence Sergeant)
-- 18Z (Special Forces Senior Sergeant)
(Gary Sheftick also contributed to this article.)