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Public Policy and Administration


Kirk Williams


Decades before the elimination of gender restrictions in the U.S. military, ground combat was an equal opportunity issue for women. Direct combat units, such as infantry and artillery, are now open to female enlistment. The purpose of this study was to examine the efforts, challenges and/or successes, of incorporating women into a U.S. Army combat brigade in a single state. The frame-critical approach was used to outline the competing arguments between supporters and opponents of women in combat. The research questions guiding the study included how gender integration is perceived with regards to strength and survivability of the unit, and how future conflict will govern decisions about sending women into combat. A qualitative case study was employed with semi structured interviews with commanders of the combat brigade, given their proximity to the issue and responsibility in the implementation process. The selected brigade was serving as the initial test bed of evaluation for the rest of the state's combat units. The data collected via the interviews were cross-checked with documentary data including declassified memorandums, technical reports, and execution orders. During the analysis phase, the data were organized and coded to identify themes related to the experiences of the command structure. Overall, the officers were supportive of the policy mandate and expressed viewpoints that validated both oppositional and advocacy arguments. The implications for social change include how the military is working to validate performance standards to positively influence policy on gender integration, and the combat brigade utilized in this study is an example for the rest of the United States as it is slated to have the most female recruits for combat positions than any other state beginning in 2017.

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