US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States
On January 24, 2013, restrictions against women in ground combat units, to include U.S. Army Special Forces SF, were rescinded by the Department of Defense. The military services were allowed to gradually and systematically integrate women into male-only military occupational specialties MOS. By January 2016 the military services must open all combat jobs to women or explain why exceptions exist. Gender integration for Army SF Operational Detachments Alpha ODAs could present socio-dynamic hurdles that potentially erode operational readiness, combat effectiveness and group cohesion. This research explores implications to operational readiness, combat effectiveness and group cohesion gender integration may pose to Army SF ODAs. Historical accounts of women in the Office of Strategic Services are considered, and gender integration of combat jobs and special operations forces of foreign militaries are discussed. Surveys were conducted among a convenience sampling of U.S. Army SF officers and U.S. Army female officers. Findings and recommendations conclude gender integration of an SF ODA can be successful if leadership at all levels leads the way with clear communication to manage expectations, and current physical standards remain unaltered. Clear lines of communication and education of ODA spouses are also vital to the success of gender integration in ODAs.