FORT EUSTIS, Va. — Only a small fraction of Army women say they’d like to move into one of the newly opening combat jobs, but those few who do say they want a job that takes them right into the heart of battle, according to preliminary results from a survey of the service’s nearly 170,000 women.
That survey and others across the Army, publicly disclosed for the first time to The Associated Press, also revealed that soldiers of both genders are nervous about women entering combat jobs but say they are determined to do it fairly. Men are worried about losing their jobs to women; women are worried they will be seen as getting jobs because of their gender and not their qualifications. Both are emphatic that the Army must not lower standards to accommodate women.
Less than 8 percent of Army women who responded to the survey said they wanted a combat job. Of those, an overwhelming number said they’d like to be a Night Stalker — a member of the elite special operations helicopter crews who perhaps are best known for flying the Navy SEALS into Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011.
Last year top Pentagon officials signed an order saying women must have the same opportunities as men in combat jobs and the services have been devising updated physical standards, training, education and other programs for thousands of jobs they must open Jan. 1, 2016. The services must open as many jobs to women as possible; if they decide to keep some closed, they must explain why.
The Army says that about 200,000 of its 1.1 million jobs are either direct combat or related jobs such as field artillery, combat engineers and so on. That’s roughly 20 percent of the force, though the direct-combat front-line fighters make up roughly half of that or about 9 percent.