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Inside the Ring
Question of the Day
The Army is getting around the ban on mixed-sex support units embedding with combat units by pulling out female soldiers when fighting occurs.
This fire-drill approach to running Forward Support Companies, known as FSCs, is one big reason why House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican, is moving to have the ban restated in the pending 2006 defense authorization bill.
The committee, in an amendment passed this week, added language that would require the Army to report any changes in combat rules for women, but backed off from an amendment to ban women from FSCs. The full House also must endorse the bill, along with the Senate, for Mr. Hunter’s proposal to become law.
The Army used to keep FSCs all-male. With new modular brigades, called units of action, and a shortage of soldiers, the service moved to redesign the way FSCs deploy.
There are 13 FSCs in the 3rd Infantry Division, the first with units of action. In a typical FSC, there are 226 positions, about 90 percent of which are coded male-only.
Defense analysts who have seen the Army’s unit of action organization chart say it is just not workable to pull women in and out of FSCs depending on whether the unit they support is conducting combat.
The FSCs are critically important because they provide the unit of action with ammunition, fuel, communications and maintenance support.
Pentagon policy bans women from direct ground combat units, but allows them to fly combat aircraft and serve on most types of warships.
Pentagon force structure planners are still working on where to “forward deploy” a second aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific.
As part of the global military force posture review, the Pentagon has decided it needs a second carrier group closer to hot spots such as the Taiwan Strait and North Korea.
The United States has the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group based in Yokosuka, Japan, near Tokyo.
Defense officials say the choices for deploying the second carrier are Honolulu and the western Pacific island of Guam.
By Michael Widlanski
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