A woman is about to make history in a military that has been boycotted by a group of military veterans who say the military is still unable to produce female and minority leaders, but is proving otherwise today.
News broke Saturday that Army Reserve Maj. Heather Denton, who has been serving as a combat support officer since 2010, would be passing special operations training and joining the Army’s Golden Knights parachute demonstration team this spring. At 35, Denton will become the first woman to pass the course for the Army’s elite Special Forces.
In a June 2014 op-ed, the former chief of Naval Special Warfare, Vice Adm. Mike Outwater, cautioned about not “overconcentrating on leadership” in the military. “Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I don’t recall a woman being chosen to command a unit. Would anyone think otherwise because the leaders were both men?”
In 2006, though, Outwater, a woman, headed Naval Special Warfare’s most elite unit and made history: First female commander of an operation and the first officer from that unit to command a combat team. Outwater retired in 2014 and in January, just two weeks after the 2016 election, told The New York Times she might have to stop serving as a military leader and instead work for the White House “in a policy capacity.”
In recent years, the Military Times, a media outlet which covers the armed forces, has repeatedly called for diversity in the military and voiced concerns that while minorities are serving in increasing numbers, not enough women are being placed in positions that rank in combat.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lori Robinson, the first female four-star general, issued a stunning warning in 2016 that the military might not have enough women in key jobs, such as commandos and combat engineers, in 10 years if the current trend continued. “One of the greatest threats I have seen in 21st century warfare is the rise of radical Islam,” she said. “And, if we do not change, unless you have air power, it is virtually impossible to win. It requires a team, and the most important team we have, to bring the fight to them. … Women are key in all of these roles, but they are limited in the number of hours that they can work, on top of their other responsibilities.”
According to Defense News, the Army’s special operations team already had four female instructors in its program, but the program has never had a woman soldier.
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