WASHINGTON — Women may be able to start training as Army Rangers by mid-2015 and as Navy SEALs a year later under plans set to be announced by the Pentagon that would slowly bring women into thousands of combat jobs, including those in elite special operations forces.
The plans call for requiring women and men to meet the same physical and mental standards to qualify for certain infantry, armor, commando and other front-line positions across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reviewed the plans and has ordered the services to move ahead. The move, expected to be announced Tuesday, follows revelations of a startling number of sexual assaults in the armed forces.
This year, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey said the sexual assaults might be linked to the longstanding ban on women serving in combat because the disparity between the roles of men and women creates separate classes of personnel — male ‘‘warriors’’ versus the rest of the force.
While the sexual assault problem is more complicated than that, he said, the disparity has created a psychology that lends itself to disrespect for women.
Under the schedules military leaders delivered to Hagel, the Army will develop standards by July 2015 to allow women to train and potentially serve as Rangers, and qualified women could begin training as Navy SEALs by March 2016 if senior leaders agree. Of the more than 6,700 US service members who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 150 have been women.