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DACOWITS Wants Army Missile, Flight Berths Open to Women

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 1998 – Note to editors: This retransmission corrects an error in the third paragraph of the original release: The Air Force has not opened two career fields to women, but only concurred with a DACOWITS recommendation that it do so.

The secretary's Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services strongly disagreed with the Army's refusal to open two of its career fields to women.

During the committee's recent fall conference, members recommended to the secretary that the Army open its Multiple Launch Rocket System and special operations forces rotary-wing aviation fields to women.

DACOWITS spring conferees recommended the Air Force open its special operations rotary-wing pilot career field to women. The Air Force concurred, but cannot act alone because of the multiservice nature of special operations, said Maj. Susan Hogg, the committee's Air Force liaison. Concurrence, however, "demonstrates the commitment from the Air Force to effectively utilize qualified personnel," the committee report said.

Army officials believe the 1994 direct ground combat assignment rule closes the two fields to women. The rule states that service restrictions may include "where units and positions are doctrinally required to physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units that are closed to women" and "where units are engaged in long-range reconnaissance operations and special operations forces missions."

DACOWITS members received multiple briefings and researched DoD and Army policies. Their fall report to the secretary concludes that consistently applied DoD policies on direct ground combat and collocation would not preclude opening the positions to women. The advisory committee also said the risks faced by special operations air crews doesn't justify invoking the combat rule to bar women.

DACOWITS included the Army's use of women on their list of continuing concerns, noting the need to monitor career fields and areas of concentration closed to women. Other recommendations forwarded to the secretary were:

  • DoD should initiate a study to quantify the impact of age on fitness, weight and body composition.
  • U.S. Special Operations Command should accept and deploy mixed-gender helicopter crews, as briefed by the Air Force at the fall conference.
  • DoD should immediately incorporate the secretary's statements on equal opportunity, sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination into Directives 1350.2 and 1440.0 and DoD Instruction 1350.3.

Continuing committee concerns include child care availability and cost, gender discrimination, the effectiveness of sexual harassment prevention training, and cost-of-living allowances and compensation differences.

During the conference, DACOWITS members also developed issues they will address at future conferences. On the list are the impact of operations and personnel tempos on quality of life, issues concerning dual-military couples, and all the services' training on dignity and respect for others.

Committee members visit military personnel in the field and fleet throughout the year, document issues raised and determine whether the concerns are isolated or widespread. Members meet twice yearly to discuss issues and concerns raised during their visits.

"We're looking for things that seem across the board," said Army Lt. Col. Sandy Lewis, DACOWITS spokesperson. Members seek more information from the service or services involved when an issue appears widespread. At the conferences, subcommittees raise and discuss issues and members vote on report recommendations to the secretary, Lewis said.

Subcommittees are equality management, forces development and utilization and quality of life.

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