Soldiers train with a field artillery howitzer at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, last year. Women will now join field artillery units, down to the platoon level, as the Army opens thousands of jobs to them. (Army)
Army Field Artillery insignia (Army)
Virtually all Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve positions coded for field artillery officers have been opened to women under a directive issued by Army Secretary John McHugh.
The March 4 directive opens to women approximately 1,900 area-of-concentration 13A Field Artillery officer positions in the active component, and 1,700 in the Guard and Reserve.
The change applies to cannon battalions down to platoon level.
The change does not include field artillery positions in special operations units, which are now closed, or positions with “male only” skill identifiers.
The female component of the field artillery officer corps is small, but growing, with only 112 women holding the 13A designation and wearing the crossed cannon insignia of the career branch as follows:
■Regular Army: one lieutenant colonel, two majors, five captains, 45 first lieutenants and 51 second lieutenants, for a total of 104.
■Army National Guard: one major and two second lieutenants, for a total of three.
■Army Reserve: one lieutenant colonel, one major and three captains, for a total of five.
The new policy is part of the ongoing campaign to eliminate the Direct Ground Combat Assignment Rule by dismantling in phases policies that have barred women from serving in combat units below the brigade level.
The goal is to open most jobs to women within the next year, so that gender-neutral standards will be in place by the end of 2015. The campaign began in 2012 when the Army opened 13,000 positions previously closed to women in 80 units, to include field artillery battalions equipped with the Multiple Launch Rocket system and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket system.
McHugh has directed that gender-neutral accession standards be established by the end of fiscal 2015, and that Direct Ground Combat Assignment restrictions be eliminated by Jan. 1, 2016.
In a related effort, the Army is working toward opening several non-special operations positions that routinely engage in close combat, such as those requiring enlisted cannon artillery specialists, and officer and enlisted specialties in the Armor and Infantry branches.