Female soldiers to be in all Army brigade combat teams by year's end

Julia LeDoux
June 04, 2020 - 9:58 am
Female tankers

Crystal Farris/United States Army

Female infantry and armor soldiers will be integrated into all of the Army’s brigade combat teams this year as the service modifies a requirement to have at least two female leaders in each company with junior enlisted women.

“We’ve had women in the infantry and armor occupations now for three years,” Maj. Melissa Comiskey, chief of command policy, Army G-1, said in a statement.

She added that integrating women into combat units “changed the culture.” 

“It’s not as different as it was three years ago when the Army first implemented the integration plan,” Comiskey said.

When the integration begin in 2017, a “leaders first” policy required two female officers or NCOs of the same military occupational specialty to be in each company that accepted women straight from initial-entry training.

That rule was modified last year so that only one female infantry or armor leader needed to be in each company, along with another woman of any MOS -- such as a supply sergeant, the release said.

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Now the rule has been further adjusted with a change to the Army Gender Integration Plan that will require only one female officer or NCO to be in companies that accept junior enlisted women.

The director of the Army National Guard has also been given authority to lift the “leader’s first” policy for battalions that have successfully integrated junior enlisted women into at least one of their companies for 12-15 months.

“Quite frankly, it’s generally going to be an NCO leader that young soldiers will turn to for questions. And having an NCO that can share first-hand experiences can be beneficial,” Comiskey said.

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Currently, women make up less than 2 percent of the infantry and armor force. There are now  601 women in infantry career fields, attending training or in the accession pipeline. The armor career field has 568 women, including officers. 

“The inventory of infantry and armor women leaders is not as high as we have junior soldiers,” Comiskey added. “And their training pipeline is longer.”

Over the remainder of this year, the Army will integrate female armor and infantry soldiers into the last nine BCTs that don’t have them yet, she said. Two other BCTs integrated women into their companies earlier this year.

What has slowed the integration so far is that not enough female infantry and armor leaders and soldiers were in the pipeline.

Only a small number of female officers and NCOs initially chose to change their specialties and attend infantry or armor training, becoming the first leaders assigned to companies ahead of junior enlisted women. Now the first officers that went through the Infantry and Armor Basic Officer Leadership Courses, or BOLC, are becoming company commanders.

“It takes a little bit longer to grow the leaders,” Comiskey said.

The decision to modify the “leaders first” policy was made at the Army’s Four-Star Conference in March.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.

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