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U.S. Army Master Sgt. Robin Harris visits with Afghan children who come regularly to the monthly Women U.S. Army Master Sgt. Robin Harris visits with Afghan children who come regularly to the monthly Women's Bazaar at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters, July 28, 2012. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. April Campbell/International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs/U.S. Department of Defense (Women's Bazaar), via Wikimedia Commons)  

Survey: Less than 10 percent of Army women want to join combat units

Results from a U.S. Army survey show that female soldiers are not enthusiastic about entering combat positions. Maintaining physical standards for soldiers regardless of sex is nearly universally supported.

“Less than 8 percent of Army women who responded to the survey said they wanted a combat job,” reported The Associated Press, which obtained the results of a preliminary survey of 170,000 soldiers.

The assessment was emailed last year to active duty, reserves and Army National Guard members to gauge attitudes towards women in combat.

Only 2,238 of 30,000 women, or 7.5 percent, who responded to the questionnaire said that they would want to work in one of several combat positions which included infantry, armor, artillery and combat engineer positions, the AP reported.

Of the women who were open to combat jobs, “an overwhelming number said they’d like to be a Night Stalker — a member of the elite special operations helicopter crews who perhaps are best known for flying the Navy SEALS into Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011.”

Over 30 percent of surveyed women who said they were open to combat positions wanted to work in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as SOAR or the Night Stalkers, according to the AP.

The unit, which specializes in nighttime operations behind enemy lines, opened its combat ranks to women last June.

Last year, the Pentagon reversed a 1994 policy that banned women from working near combat units. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, women will be able to apply to all combat positions, including all military occupational specialties.

Survey respondents showed widespread support for maintaining physical standards regardless of sex. Men worried that relaxed physical standards, such as lower weight-carrying and physical endurance requirements for women, was a “risk to their team,” a deputy chief of staff for Army operations told the AP.

“The women don’t want to lower the standards because they want the men to know they’re just as able as they are to do the same task,” David Brinkley, the deputy, added.

Maintaining physical standards while opening positions to women has proved difficult for all branches of the military.

Recently, the Marines delayed a plan that would have required male and female Marines to complete a minimum of three pull-ups. Only 45 percent of female Marine candidates could complete that number, and the plan was tabled until more data could be collected, the Marines said.

The latest Army survey also shed light on other attitudes towards women in combat roles. Male soldiers worried that “women issues”, including pregnancies and menstrual cycles, would have a negative impact on combat units.

Officers worried about an increase in sexual harassment and improper relationships, while co-ed units were of concern for military spouses of both sexes, the survey found, according to the AP.

One prominent military official downplayed the demand among women for the combat positions.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as great as people think,” Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told the AP.

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