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Women A Step Closer To The Front Lines04:56

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For the first time ever, two women are in the final stages of Army Ranger school.

The Pentagon continues to debate on which combat positions should be open to women, but they need to submit their decisions by the end of the year. The defense secretary will make the final call.

NPR Pentagon reporter Tom Bowman talks with Here & Now's Robin Young about what to expect.

Interview Highlights: Tom Bowman

On the current state of women's opportunities in combat
“There were 19 women who started out in this Ranger training. And as you said, two are left, and we’ll see what happens over the next week and half. Whether they make it through. I’ve made many trips to Iraq and Afghanistan over the years and I’ve seen women close to the front lines. And at this point, they’re attached to Marine infantry units — 'female engagement teams' is what they’re called. They go into villages and interview women villagers and so forth. So they kind of go along with infantry units now, but aren't part of infantry units and that’s the question coming up for Pentagon leaders. And this Army Ranger training is just one small part of it.”

On the Pentagon's expected decision on women's combat roles
“The Army is also looking at what you have to do to be in the infantry. They’re coming up with tests of how much weight do you have to carry and how many miles do you have to go. The Marines are doing something similar. And all of this data is going to the service chiefs. They’ll make a recommendation in September or October to the Pentagon saying, ‘Listen, we think that women can serve in some of these ground combat units, or maybe some of them should stay closed.’”

On doubt stagnating women's progress in U.S. troops
“Men and women have to do the exact kind of training going through this Ranger course... all of them have to do the exact kind of training. But you’re right, some of the male Marines I spoke with out there who have done multiple combat tours, they question whether this can work or not. And they praise women for trying to get through the training, and many of them have, but they still question whether this makes sense or not.”


This segment aired on August 11, 2015.

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