FORT BRAGG, N.C. (March 9, 2016) – Leaders from U.S. Army Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command discussed Soldier 2020 during a senior leader summit panel discussion for the two commands here at Gen. George C. Marshall Hall.
FORT SILL, Okla. (March 10, 2016) — It’s been a long time coming: Full-scale gender integration is now a reality in today’s military. Fort Sill is making sure the integration is as smooth as possible.
Although Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made it official, Jan. 2, opening the last remaining ground combat roles to women has been a hot topic for several years in what is known as the Soldier 2020 initiative to develop readiness standards.
“The Army felt like we were doing a disservice to readiness by looking only at the male population in certain combat (military occupational specialties) MOSs,” said Field Artillery Proponent Office Sgt. Maj. Alexis Shelton. “(Women) are driving trucks in some of the most dangerous areas in the world,” he said of the types of jobs female Soldiers are already performing.
“It’s about readiness,” he emphasized. “It’s making sure we have the right people, from all genders.”
In anticipation of the elimination of the last barriers to women, the Army Medical Command’s Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine had to figure how to accommodate women in an equitable way, and also how to reduce male injuries and washouts in advanced individual training.
It began a rigorous series of tests designed to codify the types of High Physical Demand Tests necessary to be successful in a combat specialty such as 13B cannon crewman.
Fort Sill’s subject matter experts assisted in the study at Fort Carson, Colo., to “validate the task,” said Shelton.
ARIEM personnel were also at Fort Sill at the end of February working with Soldiers in basic combat training to help design the Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT) for potential recruits to determine what MOS they can and can’t be trained in.
Shelton said some males are suffering injuries during training, or can’t meet the standards. “That gets back to readiness,” he said.
Before enlisting, recruits are given the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to measure cognitive or mental abilities, and must meet medical standards. However, there is no meaningful physical test that will help a potential Soldier be successful.
The OPAT would be the physical determinant of which MOS a recruit can be considered for, and is expected to be implemented by June 1. The four tests to measure lower-body strength, lower and upper body power, and aerobic fitness will be the standing long jump, the seated power throw, strength dead lift, and aerobic interval run.
“Once a Soldier takes the OPAT at the reception station, more than likely the Soldier would have no problem with the high physical demands (in AIT),” said Shelton. “We’ll have two assessments in place before a Soldier even signs the contract to be sure we have the right Soldier in the right MOS.”
All Soldiers in Fort Sill’s 13B cannon crewmember and 13F fire support specialist military occupational specialties need to pass specific HPDT tasks to graduate. Female Soldiers have been working with the Multiple Launch Rocket System and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System for several years. They do not need to pass the HPDT because their jobs are mostly automated and do not involve high physical demands.
An AIT Soldier with C Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, became the first female in the 13B MOS. Perhaps the hardest test was being able to move a total of 3,000 pounds of ammunition in 15 minutes, an action expected of a cannon crewmember in combat.
Pfc. Katherine Beatty of Inverness, Florida, had the advantage of being a power lifter with her Army infantryman husband, Charles, before enlisting. Beatty is a mother of a 2-year-old, and her success should lay to rest any doubts that women are capable of being part of a ground combat team. The next group of women scheduled for 13B training is due next month at Fort Sill.
Despite the standardization of HPDT and OPAT, there are still differences in the way men and women are scored on physical tests in basic combat training. “There’s a male and a female scale,” said Shelton. Forty sit-ups will earn a male a lower score than it does for a female, he said.
In addition to the physical requirements, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command requires “safe and secure” housing for women.
Capt. Justin Lopez, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery commander, which is the AIT unit for 13B, said the goal is to have females housed in the same building as the rest of their team. One wing of that barracks is being remodeled to accommodate them. TRADOC requires that female housing has fire safe doors that lock from the inside, as well as closed circuit TV cameras in hallways and common areas.
“With fire safe doors, if an incident were to occur and they felt unsafe, they could hit a button and these doors would lock and no one could get in,” said Lopez.
When Beatty arrived as an AIT trainee a few months earlier than the expected first group of 13B women, she was housed in a separate barracks with other females. However, the rest of her training was exactly the same as that of the men.
“I keep going back to readiness,” said Shelton. “Because that’s what it’s about.”
FORT Sill, Okla. (March 10, 2016) — Sometimes a person is just in the right place at the right time.
And so it was for Pfc. Katherine Beatty when she learned her chosen military occupational specialty, or MOS, in signal intelligence wasn’t going to work out. Then came an offer too good to pass up.
Why not be the Army’s first female cannoneer?
“They said I could pick a different MOS,” she said of her nine-week holdover after basic combat training. The combat specialty of 13B cannon crewmember was on the list. “They said there was a lot of heavy lifting, and it’s a pretty high speed job, and I would be the first female. I was pretty excited about it. I called my husband (in Inverness, Fla.) He’s infantry and works side by side with 13 Bravos. He told me what to expect and I just went for it.”
Not only did she pass, she excelled, earning the title of distinguished honor graduate for Class No. 12-16. She was assistant platoon guide and helped teach her peers. She also earned the top scores in several exams and passed her Go/No go events, including the high physical demand test, the first time.
She said none of it was easy, especially the first week.
The Army’s new High Physical Demand Test, or HPDT, was in place for the first time, and men and women both need to pass it to graduate from 13B school.
She said the most difficult task was loading and unloading 15 155mm ammunition shells weighing nearly 100 pounds apiece.
“That was pretty tough,” she said. “We had 15 minutes to do it.” That means moving 3,000 pounds a feat even some men couldn’t do.
“I did power lifting and trained with my husband, Charles (before enlisting),” she said of her ability to pass the test. She also went to the gym in her spare time while at Fort Sill. She said Charles is her hero because of all the support he’s given her.
Beatty earned high praise from her primary AIT instructor, Staff Sgt. Michael Prater, as well as her battle buddies.
“She’s held her own as an APG, as far as leading the Soldiers where they need to be, keeping up with who’s on sick call, who’s in formation, and who’s not,” said Prater after her platoon’s live-fire training, March 1. “She took good notes and kept up with the training. Pfc. Beatty was an excellent Soldier.”
Pvt. Marc Etinne, one of her battle buddies, said initially he wasn’t sure how things were going to work out with a female in a combat MOS.
“At first I was like, ‘oh, this is going to be interesting,'” he said. “But then the sergeant talked to us and said anybody in Army green, we have to treat them with respect. She really surprises me with all the physical stuff she can do. She’s been treated just like everybody else. She’s a great Soldier.”
Her other battle buddy, Pvt. Jesse Hurtado, agreed. He said having a female in his 13B class was “awesome.”
“She worked a lot harder than the males did at some point,” he said. “She proved herself. She made her battle buddies push harder because she was there pushing with them. She’s an inspiration, seeing her going through what we’re doing. We all love her. She’s an awesome battle buddy. We all want her to do great in her career.”
Beatty’s platoon specialized in the 105mm lightweight towed M119A3 howitzer. Even though those shells weigh around 30 pounds, all 13B Soldiers need to be able to meet the physical standard with the 155mm shells used in the M777 and the Paladin howitzers. They also need to be able to drag a casualty in combat, so part of the HPDT is to drag a 270-pound skid 20 meters out and back.
Although the physical part of training was grueling, Beatty said she loved it. She and her husband have taken their 2-year-old daughter hiking and lead an active life, she said. Being the first woman wasn’t as much as an obstacle as she thought.
“Everyone treats me like a Soldier, like part of the team,” she said. “There was a lot of positivity from my platoon, the instructors, the NCOs. It’s been really awesome.”
Week 4 of training was hands-on dry fire with the M119A3. March 1, her class fired on the equipment they were trained on. Booms from the M777 and the Paladin interspersed with shots fired from Beatty’s team. Finally it was her turn.
She fired three rounds, then caught the next gunner’s smoking cartridge when it was ejected, and spent time on the radio and recording firing data. When the last round was called, Prater took out a marker and began writing on the shell. Pens materialized, and everyone squeezed in to leave their message on it. Beatty’s read “Miss 13B.”
Then she returned to the radio and called, “last round!” The excited cannoneers echoed her, and rushed the round into the chamber. Prater checked the round, held up his hand, and yelled, “stand by,” for the umpteenth time that day. Then he dropped his arm and yelled, “fire!” The round sped off to into the distant hillside, and everyone cheered. Then they started tearing down and had a late lunch of meals, ready to eat.
“Everyone was excited in our platoon. I can definitely say that we had a lot of fun today. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” said Beatty.
Although she hoped to go to Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Beatty has been assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, following her graduation March 11.
Although she “jumped the gun” so to speak in being trained as a cannoneer, there are more than a dozen women coming behind her. Her advice to them: “Go for it. It’s an awesome job. You’ve got to be strong, both physically and mentally, but there’s definitely a lot of support here.”
Editor’s note: See the video of Beatty’s training on the Fort Sill Tribune’s Facebook page.
Photo credit: Pfc. Katherine Beatty’s platoon fired three shells apiece to qualify on the M119A3 howitzer during live-fire training, March 1, 2016, at Fort Sill. (U.S. Army photo by Cindy McIntyre)
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 7, 2016) — In June of last year, the Army opened the 12B combat engineer position to female Soldiers. Today, women are going through the school house at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and joining units around the Army.
Pvts. Brianna Moore, Chrisslene Tialavea, and Lashonda Ivy are all recent graduates of the 12B course. All three enlisted last year around the time the MOS was opened to female Soldiers, and they are among the first women to be admitted to the 12B military occupational specialty.
Among other things, combat engineers construct fighting positions, fixed or floating bridges, obstacles and defensive positions; they place and detonate explosives; they conduct operations that include route clearance of obstacles and rivers; they prepare and install firing systems for demolition and explosives; and they detect mines visually or with mine detectors.
From Merrillville, Indiana, 18-year-old Ivy joined the Army, she said, for a lot of reasons — though she cited educational opportunities and financial stability as leading the pack. At her recruiter’s office last year, she didn’t know that the 12B MOS was opening to female Soldiers, and possibly didn’t know the MOS had ever even been closed to women. But her recruiter, she said, offered up an Army option to her that she said sounded enticing.
“My recruiter asked me if I wanted to blow stuff up,” Ivy said. “I thought that would be pretty cool — so I picked that MOS.”
Now, Ivy serves as a combat engineer with 43rd Combat Engineer Company, Regimental Engineer Squadron “Pioneer”, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, at Fort Hood, Texas.
Moore, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, now serves as a combat engineer with Company A, 3rd Engineer Battalion “Beaver,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, also at Fort Hood. Like Ivy, she said the educational opportunities in the Army appealed to her.
She enlisted in July of 2015. When she first approached the Army for a job, she said 12B wasn’t yet open to women. But when the career field did open, she dove in.
“When it opened up, that’s when I went for it,” she said. “I looked at the MOS and I thought it was pretty cool,” Moore said. “I figured if I was going to join the Army, I was going to do something that was kind of out there. We use explosives … for everything.”
Tialavea, originally from Queens, New York, now serves a combat engineer with Company B, 3rd Engineer Battalion “Beaver,” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team — right alongside Moore. Similiat to Moore, she was interested in getting paid to work with explosives.
Tialavea and Ivy actually went through engineer school together — along with about 30 other female Soldiers. Moore, on the other hand, went through the 12B schoolhouse with nothing but guys. She said that wasn’t a problem, however — everyone, she said, acted like pros.
“We all worked together,” Moore said. “It was Soldiers working with Soldiers.”
Actually, Moore, Ivy and Tialavea all say that despite being among the first female Soldiers to go through the combat engineer course, they have seen nothing but support from their male counterparts who are already on the job.
“I love my platoon and my company,” Moore said. “They all accept me and we continue to work together without any problems.”
During a National Training Center rotation last year, Ivy said, the other Soldiers in her unit made sure she knew what to do. “My platoon was really supportive. They helped me,” she said. “I just got to my unit five days before I left for NTC. It was good bonding with them.”
Tialavea said she did get some pushback on her choice to be a 12B — from her family and friends.
“They didn’t really like the idea of me doing 12B, but I did it anyway,” she said. “I told them — – look at me, I made it. All it took, honestly, was a lot of motivation and stamina and willpower.”
And from her unit, Tialavea said — they’ve been on board with her since she came on board.
“So far I’ve been getting along with everybody in my platoon, and they are very supporting and accepting,” she said.
Moore has also been out to the NTC to train with her unit, where she said she served mostly in a support role. “We got to do a little bit of demolition and movement and formations and stuff, but we didn’t get to go ‘all out,'” she said. “We did our MOS, but we didn’t get to do it to the extreme.”
Ivy’s unit is now getting ready for the real thing in Afghanistan this September.
“We’re deploying soon,” she said. “We have the Route Reconnaissance and Clearance Course in about two to three weeks.”
After that, she said, it’s off to Afghanistan. She’s never left the United States before, she said, and her family is “really scared” for her. But she’s not worried, or at least not willing to admit it. “I’m ready,” she said.
Tialavea hasn’t yet gone to train with her unit at the NTC — though they are getting ready to go in September, and she is preparing alongside them for the event with a “whole lot of training.” Right now, she said, they are in the field “making sure we perform dismount training, driver training, and all kinds of training. Then we go to gunnery, and then we head to NTC.”
When not deployed, or at the NTC, Moore says as part of Company A, “we keep up on maintenance and take care of our vehicles that we drive, and we have specific times we go and train in the field — we keep it moving,” she said.
For the future, Moore wants to get an education and “make something out of whatever it is I pursue,” she said. She said she hopes to go into architectural and civil engineering in the future.
Tialavea says she plans to re-enlist at least once, and looks forward to one day being a staff sergeant. “That’s one of my goals,” she said. Another is to pursue a master’s degree in psychology.
Ivy said she wants to go to the Sapper School or to Ranger School — once she has attained the rank to allow her to do so.
Moore says that she can see herself, later in her Army career, serving as a mentor to other female soldiers who come into the Army — but now, she said, she’s focused on “learning my job, and being able to perform to the expectations.”
Tialavea said right now for her, “my job is driving and operating a Bradley and I find that to be really fun, a cool experience,” she said. “To me, this is a regular job — there is nothing special, I guess. But I can see myself serving as a role model for the women that do plan on being a 12B in the future, by doing the right thing and setting an example for them, and when it’s my time to become a leader, to just give them the mentorship.”
Photo credit: Combat engineers with Company B, 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division detonate a mine clearing line charge during the combined arms live fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Army Base, Germany, June 27, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer)
Last week, I had an opportunity to be interviewed by SGT Audrey Santana from Soldiers Radio and Television. It was great to be able to speak with her and share information on the way ahead for NCO Development. But during the course of our discussion, I realized we need to better explain the TRADOC role in support of the Army’s Soldier 2020 initiative. The Soldier 2020 initiative is all about applying standards to select the right person for the right job.
There are some major efforts going on in our Army and you might not understand how they are linked to one another. So, I would like to use this week’s blog to explain those relationships.
The first is Soldier 2020 – the total Army effort to enhance force readiness and warfighting capability by implementing a standards-based, scientific approach for verifying and evaluating MOS specific performance requirements. This will aid leadership in selecting the best qualified Soldiers for each job within the Army profession, ensuring future force capability and readiness.
TRADOC is responsible for two key efforts of the Army’s Soldier 2020 implementation plan; the physical demands study – that verified physical performance requirements in the Army’s most physically demanding combat arms occupations and led to developing a predictive physical aptitude tests for accessions; and the gender integration study – conducted to identify and understand institutional and cultural factors associated with the integration of women into previously closed positions and units.
Both were completed this past fall.
The physical demands study gave us actual, validated physical tasks all Soldiers perform in our most physically demanding occupations. These tasks helped us design a test to predict each recruit’s physical aptitude to succeed in our most physically demanding jobs.
The Occupational Physical Assessment Test is a predictive test made up of four events – standing long jump, seated power throw, strength deadlift and interval aerobic run. In others words, think of the OPAT as the ASVAB for physical aptitude, predicting whether or not a recruit will be physically able to succeed in a combat arms occupation by the end of their training.
It is similar to how the ASVAB helps predict a recruit’s future academic success and aligns them to a particular MOS. Although the exact date for beginning the OPAT in our recruiting centers has not been determined, a large-scale validation test is underway until mid-2016.
Soldier 2020 is about a standards-based Army in which any recruit able to meet the standards of a job will be allowed to perform that job.
Check out this video to learn more about OPAT.
Victory Starts Here!
– CSM D
Explaining the new physical assessment test for recruits
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 2, 2016) — Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley told lawmakers the Army is opening the door to every job a Soldier can hold regardless of gender.
“This is the right decision for our Army,” said Murphy, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee today. “The personal courage and selfless service made by women in our Army is no different than that exhibited by our men … we owe them the respect and honor to offer them the opportunity to succeed anywhere in our Army based upon only the merits of their performance.”
Murphy said that after several years of extensive research, collaboration and practical evaluation, the service came to three primary conclusions – that women are capable of performing every job in the Army; that the maintenance of high standards, performance and professional conduct will be based solely upon what the position requires and nothing else; and that leadership is critical to integration.
Murphy added that full integration will likely take several years as the Army adjusts both to the culture and to growing individual skills within the force.
“For the record, I fully support opening military occupational specialties [MOSs] in the United States Army to all Soldiers regardless of gender,” Milley said. “And, I believe full integration of women in all career fields will either maintain, sustain or improve the overall readiness… and our capability of the force if… and only if we maintain and enforce rigorous combat readiness standards and we maintain a merit-based results-oriented organization, and we apply no quotas and no pressure… we will not impose quotas on ourselves.”
Milley said that once approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the Army would execute what he called a “very deliberate, methodical and transparent process” to include developed and published measurable gender-neutral standards based on combat readiness requirements.
“I estimate that effective female integration into infantry, armor and special forces will require no less than one to three years of deliberate effort in order to develop the individual skills and grow our leaders,” Milley added. “The Army is currently in the process of ensuring our facilities comply with law and DOD policies for access and gender-neutral living standards at both our basic and individual training.”
The Army will integrate women through a “leader first” approach, with women able to serve as infantry and armor officers later this year in designated brigade combat teams.
The chief of staff said this spring female cadets and officer candidates, who meet the gender-neutral standard, will be given the opportunity to request either infantry or armor branches.
Milley noted that since 2011, the Army has opened nine MOSs to women and 95,000 positions in combat arms units. Additionally, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment was opened to women in 2014 and Ranger School was integrated this past year.
“These experiences have informed and enabled the Army to successfully implement gender integration and increase our combat readiness,” Milley said. “Make no mistake about it, this process is going to have challenges, but if we proceed with a methodical and deliberate execution, like all previous integration efforts, it’s my belief the Army will be successful.”
Photo credit: In this file photo, female Soldier Capt. Kristen Griest carries a Soldier during Ranger School. She was one of the first two women to make it through the 62-day leadership course on Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Nikayla Shodeen)