(U.S. Army photo by Justin Graff, 401st Army Field Support Brigade PAO)

What's in the National Defense Authorization Act for women

May 30, 2018 - 1:37 pm

When now retired Captain Lory Manning enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the end of Vietnam, women weren't allowed to attend service academies, join R.O.T.C., or serve in combat roles. Now, in 2018, all three career opportunities have been open to women service members and yet, there is still work to be done.

Manning, who currently serves as the Director of Government Operations for Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), worked Telecommunications and Security Group during her time in the Navy and had overseas tours in Iceland, Panama and Diego Garcia.

"We are so far advanced than where we were when I first joined. If a woman had a baby, she had to get out. If she married a guy who had a child under 18, who spent more than 30 day in the household, she had to get out. Women were not allowed to have command authority...they couldn't command any units unless they were all female," said Manning in an appearance on The Morning Briefing.

Now, with SWAN, she along with a board of directors and support from the active-duty and women veteran community, are working to amplify the needs of women in the military, particularly within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

She came on the show to talk more about what's in store for women veterans and service members in this year's NDAA.

  • Funding research and supplying women with gear that fits their bodies: This includes body armor, helmets that fit women's hairstyles, and rucksacks with frames that don't disproportionately share weight. "Right now it's practice for women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, women are wearing men's body armor which can prove to result in discomfort and perhaps increased risk of disability once the women get out, " said Manning.
  • Give women the option to seek private care if it's in their best intersest: Going outside of the VA for healthcare could make more sense for women because certifications like mammogram operations need to be up-to-date."Depending on the population of women veterans in a particular area, it may make more sense to send the woman to a civilian provider than to keep a mammagraph operator going when there isn't enough traffic to keep the reader certification up. We want it to be for the women veteran to get services same-day or close together. You want qualified/certified people operating the equipment," said Manning.
  • Updating the UMCJ to better protect victims of assault: Both House and Senate versions of the NDAA would expand the definition of domestic violence. Other changes would allow military judges to give protective orders to people who live on base and require those convicted of sexual assault in the military to be registered as sex offenders in the national civilian registry.

While some branches like the Navy and Air Force have allowed women to serve in their respective combat roles for years, the Army and Marine Corps still have a bit to go in terms of career integration, but even among the branches equality isn't limited to a job choice, says Manning.

"It's not just how fast can they (women) run. It's the whole dynamic of a unit can change. People's husbands or wives worry about it. People in other units are watching them or making fun of them because they're having women into the unit. It's a whole social thing on top of the professional piece of it."

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