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Women in Military Combat: ‘The Days of Rambo Are Over’

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The military timelines for integrating women into combat units were laid out on Tuesday at a Pentagon press conference by representatives of military services and U.S. Special Operations Command.

SOCOM's Major Gen. Bennet Sacolick said "the days of Rambo are over," as he made the point that it takes brains as well as brawn to be a modern day Special Operator.

“I mean, we're looking for young men that can speak and learn a foreign language and understand culture, that can work with indigenous populations and culturally attune manners. I mean, just -- you know, the defining characteristic of our operators are intellect. And when people fail in the special forces qualification course, predominantly they fail because they're -- they're not doing their homework.”
 
Sacolick admitted that SOCOM has concerns about letting women into its elite ranks but said his command is not predisposed to any course of action.  That’s why it will undertake three studies over the next year before making a recommendation to the secretary of defense by July 2015.    
 
One study is “primarily focused on the social implications of integrating women at the team level,” Sacolick explained.  There’ll also be two Rand studies, one looking at the behavior and cultural aspects of integrating women into its formations that operate in that remote special operations environment.  The other will be a comprehensive survey of every special operator to gauge their opinions, much as was done with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.   Why the survey? Sacolick said that “more often than not, we listen to the -- who we hear is the -- more than vocal minority in our formations [which] are [also] filled with the quiet professionals, and they need to give them a venue. They need to find out how they feel about integration at the team level. I think that's going to be really important."
 
The military services have similar long timelines that will meet the Pentagon’s goal of integrating women in all combat units by January 2016.  On Tuesday they gave presentations about the different methods they're using to work towards gender-neutral standards for jobs that men and women will be able to do in combat units. For example, the Marines have settled on five “proxy tasks” like loading an artillery shell into a tank gun that are representative of hundreds of micro-tasks.  They’re going to study how 800 male and female Marines work their way through the drills to come up with a screening test that will eventually be used on incoming recruits who want to serve in infantry units.
 
The service representatives said they are consulting with SOCOM as to how to proceed with allowing women into their special ops units.  

There were no specific comments about reports on Monday regarding timelines for letting women to train as Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.  

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