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NEWS | March 15, 2018

Army vice chief of staff: Women vital to 'strength of our Army'

By David Vergun Army News Service

History is replete with inspiring examples of female Soldiers who served, said the Army's vice chief of staff.

"Today, women are a vital part of the strength of our Army," said Gen. James C. McConville, who spoke on Capitol Hill March 12 as part of the 10th Annual U.S. Army Women's Summit.

The general said a female inspired him very early on in his own career. That woman, Gale O'Sullivan Dwyer, was his classmate during high school in Braintree, Mass. Coincidentally, McConville and Dwyer both entered the same class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., he said.

At the time, McConville acknowledged that he had some challenges going through the academy. It was Dwyer who inspired him to persevere, he said, describing her as a little over five feet tall and about 100 pounds but "tough as nails."

"She had tremendous character and resilience, was extremely smart and super physically fit," he said. "She motivated me every day by her presence."

Dwyer later on wrote a book with the fitting title: "Tough As Nails: One Woman's Journey Through West Point."

Throughout his career, McConville said he's seen "hundreds of formations with women, motivating Soldiers left and right."

The vice chief of staff provided another account of a female Soldier who inspired him. When he was a brigade commander in the 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq in April 2004, he said he got a call from the 1st Armored Division, saying that enemy fighters were on the verge of overrunning a small outpost in Najaf.

Fortunately, McConville said he had a team of Apache helicopters available, led by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cindy Rozelle, outside of Baghdad. The helicopter team launched, arrived at Najaf in about 35 minutes, and came in shooting, he related.

"I don't recall any of those Soldiers whose lives were saved talking about her gender," McConville said. "They were just happy to be alive."

SOME RECENT MILESTONES

McConville listed some recent achievements made by women in the Army:

-- Last year, Simone Askew became the first African-American woman to hold the position of First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy's Corps of Cadets. Askew was also selected as a Rhodes Scholar.

-- Last fall, six women earned Expert Infantry Badges during testing at Fort Bragg, N.C..

-- By the end of 2017, more than 600 female Soldiers were in infantry, armor and artillery positions that were only recently opened up to women.

-- Today, every infantry, armor and artillery battalion in every single active-duty brigade combat team has women assigned -- up to hundreds in some BCTs.

-- Ten women graduated from Ranger School.

-- Seventeen percent of the Army or 174,000 Soldiers, consists of women. That number approaches the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps.

TALENT MANAGEMENT

Now that all military occupational specialties are open to women, it's more important than ever that the Army knows how best to identify and use the talent it has in its workforce.

McConville said that talent management is about putting the right person in the right job at the right time. Another part of talent management, he said, is "leveraging the strength of diversity." Women are an important part of that diversity, he said.

Unfortunately, the Army's current personnel management system focuses on just two factors: rank and military occupational specialty. That's a very incomplete picture of Soldiers, each of whom has a unique set of knowledge, skills, abilities and aspirations, McConville said.

He added that the Army wants to manage Soldier talent using as many as 25 variables. Examples of those variables include language skills and foreign experience.

The Army is now getting ready to field the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, or IPPS-A, which will, among other things, allow the Army to document a much wider array of talent than what it currently does. A pilot program in one of the captain's career courses used this talent management approach, McConville said.

The first phase of IPPS-A will be fielded by the Guard this fall and in the active and Reserve components next year, he said.

Getting this done right is important, he emphasized. "The Army is about people, its most important weapon system." He added that when done right, a talent management system that works will encourage good people to stay in the Army.