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The United States military has most of their positions open to women. There are some restrictions because of physical demands that women cannot meet such as special forces positions.
Women have been involved in the U.S. military since 1775, but more in the civilian fields of nursing, laundering, mending clothing and cooking. Several hundred women enlisted and fought in the US Civil War, nearly all of them disguised as men, many discovered on the battlefield and in hospitals after becoming wounded. In 1917 Loretta Walsh became the first woman to enlist. But it was not until 1948 that a law was finally passed that made women a permanent part of the military services. In 1976, the first group of women was admitted into a U.S. military academy. Currently, approximately 16% of the graduating West Point class consists of women.
In the years 1990 and 1991 some 40,000 American military women were deployed during the Gulf War operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. But not one woman was able to take on any form of combat. From 1994 on a policy prohibited women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level.
According to statistics from 2013, 15.6 percent of the U.S. Army’s 1.1 million soldiers, including National Guard And Reserve, were female. That year, women served in 95 percent of all army occupations.
Prior to the 1993 Department of Defense assignment rule, 67 percent of the positions in the Army were open to women. Today, 78 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women, and women serve in 95 percent of all Army occupations (active duty and the reserve components), as of 2014. In the U.S. Air Force, 99% of career fields are open to women, the only ones prohibited to women are Special Tactics Officer, Combat Control, Special Operations Weather Technician, Combat Rescue Officer, Pararescue and Tactical Air Control Party.
In January 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued an order to end the policy of “no women in units that are tasked with direct combat”, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join the US Army’s Special Forces.
In 2013 female U.S Army soldiers are being asked to take part in a new training course designed by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, which is specifically designed for Female Engagement Team members. The course will help female soldiers train for tasks such as unexploded ordnance awareness, biometrics, forensics, evidence collection, tactical questioning, vehicle and personnel searches, instructions on how homemade explosive devices are made and how to recognize if a device is homemade. This change will open up hundreds of thousands of front-line positions for women. The goal is for all assessments to be complete and have women fully integrated into all roles in the army by 2016.
By May 2015, all nineteen women vying to become the first female Army Rangers had failed their training at Ranger School. Eleven of the nineteen dropped out in the first four days of training. Of the remaining eight who failed in the next step, three were given the option to enroll in the course again. Two of the original 19 women graduated in August 2015. A third graduated in October 2015.
In April 2015 after two-and-a-half year period in which the tough Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course became gender-integrated for research ended without a single female graduate. The final two participants in the Marines’ experiment with training women for ground combat started and failed the IOC on April 2. Both were dropped that same day during the grueling initial Combat Endurance Test.
In December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter stated that starting in 2016 all combat jobs would open to women, however Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford of the Marine Corps, wanted to keep certain direct combat positions such as infantry and machine gunner closed to women.