Army Secretary praises Fort Jackson's record on women - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Army Secretary praises Fort Jackson's record on women

U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning praised Fort Jackson's record of training female soldiers. (Source: WIS) U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning praised Fort Jackson's record of training female soldiers. (Source: WIS)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

On a high-profile visit, newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning praised Fort Jackson's record of training female soldiers as the rest of the U.S. Military opens up combat jobs to women.

"What we're doing right now is really just the tail end, the very end of something, that's been going on for years, and in my view, very successfully. And, in part, I do think that's because of Army leadership and leadership of this installation Fort Jackson," Fanning said during a Tuesday visit to the post, only his second official trip since his confirmation as secretary.

On his tour, Fanning met with soldiers in training, as well as newly arrived recruits.

In March, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter approved plans from all branches of the U.S. military to open up combat roles for women, but Fanning pointed out Fort Jackson's inclusion of women in military training since 1972.

"The female soldiers and the male soldiers conduct all training together at the squad level," explained Col. James Allen, Fort Jackson chief of operations. "The only time they're not actually conducting operations together is when they are sleeping or when they're conducting personal hygiene."

"I came here specifically because of how important Fort Jackson is to the Army - training over 54 percent of our soldiers every year, and also because of the leadership role that Fort Jackson plays in gender-integrated training, and successfully leading the way for the entire military," Fanning said.

That leadership has become evident as other posts, and other branches, have sought Fort Jackson's guidance as they seek to give more roles to women.

"We hosted visits from the Marine Corps, from the Air Force, as well as from my other army installations on some of the practices that we use in order to provide a safe environment for our soldiers to train in," Allen said.

Fanning stressed that Fort Jackson's training role and history have made it particularly secure in an era of tight military budgets when communities worry about base closings and cutbacks.

"Fort Jackson is, really an overused word, a 'unique' installation in the military because of its role in training," he said. "What I tell communities that are surrounding strong bases is that they have an opportunity to increase opportunities on their bases if there is a realignment or closure."

Fanning said the biggest challenge as more positions become available to women would be cultivating a leadership cadre to teach them, although he said some of the women drill instructors he encountered on his visit to Fort Jackson looked to be ready to step up and instruct even Army Rangers.

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