A national memo released last month addressing changes in women’s roles in the military will, when implemented during 2016, provide new leadership and combat opportunities for women.
The effect it has on the training and education of students in the ROTC program is minimal.
Secretary of Defense General Martin Dempsey rescinded the direct combat exclusion rule for woman, which eliminates gender-based barriers to service, said Lieutenant Colonel Steven Peterson, Military Science department chair.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that women have not been in combat before,” Peterson said. “Women have been fighting admirably in combat for years. [Now] they will be afforded the opportunity to take part in certain specialties in the army that they’ve never been able to in the past.”
Peterson said some of these new opportunities could potentially include infantry, armor, Special Forces and field artillery, most of which the students involved in ROTC have the chance to gain a basic knowledge of.
The women in the ROTC program consistently have received the same training during their time at the University, Peterson said, so the change only affects their opportunities later on for those who plan to pursue military careers as officers.
First Lieutenant Charli Anderson, a Truman State alumna and current platoon leader stationed in Afghanistan, said in an email that her two years of experience in the ROTC program prepared her to enter the force through teaching leadership and field and basic tactical experience.
She said she thinks there is a common misconception that there’s a gender gap within the military, because 16 percent of the Army population is female. The idea of a “gender gap” and dealing with differences in income and employment or leadership opportunities exists in the civilian world, but not in the military, she said.
“Everyone is paid based on grade and time in service, no matter your job,” Anderson said. “This change in policy will have no effect on what one may perceive as a gender gap because the gender difference is a number and nothing more.”
Anderson said the training she received during her ROTC years came from an infantry standpoint, so any additional training for women hoping to pursue this area of the Army would need to be extra tough physical training.
“All cadets, male and female, are constantly encouraged to improve PT, even when they max out,” she said. “Any cadet who stops trying to get faster or stronger, male or female, is doing so of their own personal choice.”
Junior Lindsey Owens said she’s been involved with ROTC for one year, and while she has never taken an interest in pursuing an infantry position, she thinks it’s a great opportunity for women who are capable and interested. Owens said she doesn’t think she personally meets the physical standards required for an infantry position.
The only gender gap Owens said she’s noticed is the physical standards required of women are lower than those of men, but she said this policy alteration could change that.
During her time in the Army, Anderson said she didn’t think she’s ever missed an opportunity because of her gender, as increased responsibility comes with proven performance and competency.
Infantry and armor previously were the only two of the 16 military branches in which women were unable to become officers.
“As far as leadership goes, again, I have missed out on no opportunities because of my gender,” she said. “Every soldier has to prove themselves.”