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Army to commission first 22 female officers into ground combat roles

Capt. Kristen Griest, left, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver are seen during the graduation ceremony of the United States Army’s Ranger School on August 21, 2015, at Fort Benning, Georgia. G (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

In the coming weeks, the Army is set to commission 22 female lieutenants into ground combat roles, a first for the service, the Army announced in a release Friday.

The move comes just months after Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter opened all jobs in the military to women, including roles that were previously closed such as those in the infantry and artillery fields. According to the release, the women are about to graduate from their respective ROTC programs and service academies. One woman is currently in Officer Candidate School.

How big is opposition to women in combat units among Marines? This report explains.

Nine women will head to the infantry while 13 will commission as armor officers. Armor means the officers will be in charge of vehicles such as the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank and M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

In the weeks prior to graduation from their respective ROTC programs, future officers receive their “branch” assignments, often at a formal ceremony. At West Point, officers’ branches are determined their senior year. Though the 22 women are branched to jobs that have been previously closed to them, they will still need to receive their commissions as second lieutenants and complete the respective schools for their military occupation specialities.

For the nine women going into the infantry, this means they will have to complete Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course. Currently, all 29 women who have tried to complete the Marines’ version of the course have failed. Upon completion they can volunteer for additional leadership courses, such as Ranger School. In August, the first two women in Army history, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, graduated from the storied course.

Behind the scenes with the first two women to graduate from Army Ranger School

U.S. Army Soldiers participate in close arm combatives during the Ranger Course on Ft. Benning, GA., April 20, 2015. Capt. Kristen Griest, one of two women becoming the first female soldiers to graduate from Army Ranger School, is at center carrying another soldier and holding a knife. Soldiers attend Ranger school to learn additional leadership and small unit technical and tactical skills in a physically and mentally demanding, combat stimulated environment. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Nikayla Shodeen/Released Pending Review)

The Army’s announcement comes just hours after the Marine Corps Times reported that the first female Marine — who had previously completed enlisted infantry training during a pilot program prior to the opening of all combat jobs — had requested to transfer into the infantry.

[As Pentagon opens combat jobs to women, ‘deep-seated’ opposition and a checkered past]

Three years ago, the Pentagon announced that it was opening all combat jobs to women, including Special Operations forces, and shortly afterwards the various branches of services began researching the ramifications of women entering the previously closed jobs. After a nine-month experiment involving a unit composed of gender integrated infantry, armor and artillery components, the Marine Corps concluded that all male units outperformed their female counterparts, prompting them to request an exception for some jobs before Carter’s announcement. The request was denied.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, women have served on and near the front, often supporting combat operations in support roles.