- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2015

The U.S. Army has given women the go-ahead to apply to nearly 20,000 new field artillery positions, opening the door for actively serving females to apply for military occupational specialties previously only reserved for men.

A Defense Department memo circulated on Wednesday announced the removal of restrictions that had up until now prevented women from serving in the Army as cannon crewmembers and field artillery automated tactical data system specialists.

The directive applies to active enlisted members of the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and also states that women can now for the first time be trained to conduct field artillery weapons maintenance — an additional skill identifier, or ASI, which previously excluded female troops.

“By opening these MOSs and this ASI, the Army opens approximately 19,716 positions to female soldiers,” the Defense Department memo said.

The new rules take effect immediately, according to the Army, and follows in the footsteps of several other initiatives taken during the last few years as part of a greater effort to open more military roles to female service members. The Army opened 13,000 positions to women in 80 units in 2012, and made another 20,000 roles available this past June, including combat engineer and related skill positions.

“If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job — and let me be clear, we are not reducing qualifications — then they should have the right to serve,” Leon Panetta said in 2013 while serving as head of the Pentagon.

John McHugh, the outgoing secretary of the Army, said last year that Direct Ground Combat Assignment restrictions affecting women will be gone by the start of 2016.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he was “fully committed to removing unnecessary barriers to service” in the military, and asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford to advise by Oct. 31 which jobs, if any, should stay closed to women.

“You have to recruit from the American population. Half the American population is female,” Mr. Carter said during an appearance at a Naval Air Station in Sicily earlier this month. “So I’d be crazy not to be, so to speak, fishing in that pond for qualified service members.”

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