In January, the Pentagon announced that it was lifting the ban on women in combat roles, opening up new jobs for women in the military.
The ban, which has been in place since 1994, restricted women to support roles in the military, keeping them away from direct combat. Women have been in support positions to troops in the front lines and have seen combat, but they have not technically been assigned to the combat units.
In the next few years, military branches are expected to comply with the lifted ban and welcome women into the ranks of combat troops. At Florida Southern College, Lieutenant Colonel LaRonde, professor of military science, believes that the Army ROTC program will not be overly affected by the new ruling.
“We train all of our cadets the same,” LaRonde said. “We don’t have training for females and training for males. All our cadets receive the exact same amount of training. Even when we do our field problems…we teach all of the same basic, simple skills.”
LaRonde said that the ROTC program has been about leadership, not just training and combat skills.
“The focus for us has always been on leadership, and in the Army, the fundamentals of leadership that apply to combat arms also apply to combat support units in the service,” LaRonde said. “So we teach everybody the same basic level of leadership.”
However, despite this, there are still things that will be changed by the ban’s lift, mostly in the choices that are presented to the cadets when they prepare to graduate and enter the armed forces.
According to LaRonde, cadets go through an advising program during their junior year so they can investigate just what type of job they want in the military, as well as what branch. With the ban lifted new options will become available for the cadets.
“At some point the guidance will come down on when these branches are going to specifically open to the cadets,” LaRonde said.
During their advisement cadets are encouraged to seek out people who occupy jobs that they themselves want and ask questions about them.
During this time, cadets must decide whether or not the job would be a good fit for them.
A year later, they make their formal request for an assignment.
“At the start of their senior year, they make their request for branch assignment and infantry, armor and artillery, all those kind of combat arms branches that previously weren’t always available to women,” LaRonde said.
With the new options opening up, female cadets will have more choices as to the branch and job that they apply for.
No matter what the position or branch, LaRonde believes that it will continue to be his, as well as the other ROTC advisors, job to help cadets find where they want to go.
“At some point, they’ll get to make those requests and choices, and my job as PMS [professor of military science], is to sit one on one with each of those seniors and help them make that decision,” LaRonde said.