Sergeant Major of Army pleads with female soldiers to join combat arms

1st Lt. Kayla Christopher (first Oklahoma qualified female combat arms officer), of Oklahoma City and fire direction officer for Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, work with fellow officers to calculate distance and trajectories to targets while planning a fire mission for the battery during training at Fort Riley, near Junction City, Kansas on June 8, 2016. (Oklahoma Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones/Released)

Since Ashton Carter’s lift of gender-based restrictions for combat arms the Army determined the best way to integrate females would be to transfer female leaders first, but there has been a major issue -not enough are volunteering.

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey said that 100 young women have joined the Army with intentions of becoming cavalry scouts, armor crewmen, fire support specialists and infantrymen and will require female leadership to look up to.

“As young soldiers do, they will look for leadership and mentorship from their superiors. Unfortunately, we have not had a sufficient number of serving female soldiers and [non-commissioned officers] volunteer to transfer into these mentorship and leadership roles,” said SMA Dailey in a memo sent out to the Army on Monday.

SMA Dailey, who is a career infantryman, congratulated the few female recruits for their willingness “to take on some of the most challenging assignments the Army offers.”

Related: First Texas female infantry recruit: “I am ready to deploy, it will be fun”

In his memo he pleaded to female soldiers to step up to the challenge of being a leader in combat arms.

“I know we have female soldiers with the drive and ability to be successful in ground combat arms formations. If you think you have what it takes, I am personally asking you to consider transferring to these select combat arms specialties,” he said.

At least 22 female officers have been approved to enter the second lieutenants in the infantry and armor branches so far, according to the Army Times.

It is not clear how many female non-commissioned officers and officers have decided to transfer but SMA Dailey’s plea suggest the Army is far from reaching it’s desired number required for complete integration.

“You will be challenged both mentally and physically. If you are interested in taking on this challenge and leading our soldiers into the future, please talk to your career counselor today,” said SMA Dailey.

The Army does not offer any financial incentives* for males or females to volunteer for the more physical and mental rigors of combat arms.  For a female soldier to give up her current non-combat career for a more dangerous career that requires re-training for the same pay, she must be motivated by something else.

In December of 2015, then SFC Natasha Hobbs told reporters that she was excited about the prospect of becoming an infantry battalion sergeant major.  “I’m pretty excited about it. I think it is a welcomed change for the Army as a whole,” Hobbs said.

“I’ve worked with Special Operations units before, not in a combat capacity but in a support role. If they want me and they will have me, I am willing to go wherever the Army needs me to go.”

For Hobbs, combat arms jobs are attractive because they open up the amount of leadership positions females can hold within the Army.

Related: Female Army recruiter: “I can be a Command Sergeant Major of an Infantry Battalion”

In April, the Army opened an eight-week application window for female lieutenants who wanted to branch-transfer to Infantry or Armor.  The application period, which was intended to target  female lieutenants in year groups 2014 and 2015 of the Army Competitive Category, closed on May 31st.

*Special operations units, which were previously closed to women, do offer incentive pay such as hazardous duty pay for HALO jumps. Hostile Fire and Imminent Danger Pay is paid to non-combat support jobs as well as combat jobs as long as the servicemembers are in a designated hostile fire or imminent danger pay area.

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