- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

A pro-military group is charging that the Army is violating the Defense Department’s ban on women in land combat by collocating mixed-sex support units with war-fighting soldiers.

A 1994 Pentagon policy bars the Army from such unit commingling. But as the Army undergoes a far-reaching transformation, it plans to put sex-integrated Forward Support Companies (FSC) alongside newly created brigade “units of action,” charges Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness.

“They are eliminating the collocation rule,” said Mrs. Donnelly, basing her assertion on internal Army documents and sources.

At issue is how the Army is transforming its 10 active divisions into multiple, self-contained “units of action.” The Army has looked at the idea of imbedding mixed-sex FSCs into actual combat brigades. It concedes this would violate the Pentagon policy against collocating women-included units and would require notification to Congress, according to internal documents.

But more recent Army charts show the FSCs attached to bigger support brigades, a separation the Army contends does not violate the policy.

The Army released a statement yesterday to The Washington Times. It said:

“The Army takes seriously its obligations to develop planned force structure changes. As such, the ongoing development of the new Army Brigade Combat Team, otherwise known as a Unit of Action, is taking place with the continued consultation of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the awareness of Congress. The Army will remain in compliance with public law and DOD policy regarding the assignment of women soldiers.”

An Army briefing paper, labeled “draft close hold” and dated May 2004, shows that the Army told Pentagon officials that if it was forced to keep FSCs all-male, it would not have enough soldiers.

“Army manpower cannot support elimination of female soldiers from all units designated to be unit of action elements,”the Army document states. The document further states that by not including women, it “creates an immediate personnel readiness impact: issue of insufficient male soldiers in inventory to fill forward support companies … Creates potential long-term challenge to Army; pool of male recruits too small to sustain force.”

Another option recommends what the Army now appears to be adopting. It creates separation by assigning FSCs to a brigade-support battalion, similar to how units are arranged today. But the documents adds, “caveat — could be perceived as subterfuge to avoid reporting requirement” to Congress on any change in the women-in-combat policy.

Mrs. Donnelly sent a letter of complaint to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican.

She contended that mixed-sex FSCs “will surely lead to even more involuntary assignments of women to other infantry and armor units that engage in direct ground combat, or collocate with those that do.”

She added, “The Army’s most recent plans … would force female soldiers into support units that are organic to and collocated with combined [unit of action] infantry/armor battalions. These plans, which are already in progress, constitute violation of current Defense Department regulation.”

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, is the moving force behind its transformation into modular units of action that train and deploy as one self-contained brigade, with combat and support elements. The first new-styled division, the 3rd Infantry at Fort Stewart, Ga., will deploy to Iraq in January.

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