30th Armored Brigade Combat Team by Spc. Ruth McClary

TRADOC Commander: Train on Ability, Regardless of Gender

Soldier 2020 is the Army’s deliberate effort to level the military career playing field for men and women. Here is what to expect and why. By Gen. Robert W. Cone

The debate over women in military combat roles is decades old, while the contributions and sacrifice of women serving in the profession of arms has continued through war and peace. Today, there are few practical Army career limits that women face, as evidenced by the number of women serving with distinction with combat arms battalions around the world during ongoing combat operations. 

In an effort to provide women the opportunity to serve in previously closed positions and occupational specialties, over the past year the Army initiated a deliberate service-wide effort called Soldier 2020. The fundamental goal of Soldier 2020 is to train every soldier, by specialty, to the same standard regardless of gender.  Our Army leadership seeks to remove as many barriers as possible and allow talented men and women to serve in any position where they are capable of performing. In order to make this effort a success, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, has taken the lead with a well thought-out approach that, in the end, will improve the total force.

As part of Soldier 2020, TRADOC is implementing three key initiatives.  First, we are clearly defining the standards that meet our mission requirements and maintain unit readiness. We have partnered with U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine to develop gender-neutral accessions standards for each “military occupational specialty,” or job.  This is a science-based approach that determines the key physical tasks required to do a particular job and the tests by which we can measure someone’s physical capacity to perform those tasks. Our fundamental goal is to place everyone on a path toward a meaningful career based on individual merit, simultaneously ensuring the highest levels of combat effectiveness. 

We must also take into account past lessons learned and discern the points of friction Soldier 2020 will likely encounter. Therefore, in the second major effort we initiated a holistic and extensive study looking at the institutional and cultural factors affecting gender integration. The knowledge we gain from the study will assist us in updating our Army policies, programs and leadership training.

The final element of Soldier 2020 focuses on setting the conditions for integration. TRADOC’s long history of integrating women into demanding positions provides a proven point of departure. We already have over 500 highly qualified women serving in critical leadership positions responsible for the welfare of others. They occupy significant positions of trust leading America’s sons and daughters as drill sergeants, recruiters and instructors, which makes them familiar with the trials associated with entering the military profession. Placing a cadre of women leaders with units during integration provides mentorship and should help commands transition more smoothly. A standards-based approach, informed by experiences of the past paired with successful role models in key leadership positions will ensure TRADOC maintains a quality force that provides a fair opportunity for all to excel.

As commander of TRADOC, women’s strong performance during combat operations certainly does not surprise me. TRADOC has a long history of developing and training soldiers for success.  Nearly four decades ago, TRADOC began integrating women into training throughout the Army.  The result was that well before the recent wars, women were serving successfully throughout most Army specialties. We acknowledge there are challenges and stress that every leader must ensure the highest standards of performance by all. In the end, we will only get better as an Army. Why am I so confident? Because all of our soldiers -- men and women -- prove their abilities on a daily basis and the expansion of opportunities for women will improve the quality of all our formations. TRADOC’s Soldier 2020 effort will provide a level field for all soldiers to succeed based on their personal abilities which can only make our Army stronger. 

Gen. Robert W. Cone is commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Previously, he commanded III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas, and was deputy commanding general-operations for U.S. Forces - Iraq.