Just 10 years ago, women were banned from combat. Now, they're on the front lines, climbing the ranks.

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    FORT STEWART, Ga. – Being a woman in an Army combat unit often means being the only woman in the room.

    Or the tank.

    Staff Sgt. Ricora Jones, 23, recalls being the lone woman on the plane headed to Fort Stewart, a sprawling, swampy, piney post near Savannah and home to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. On the bus from the airport, the same thing: no other women. Six years later, she’s the only woman in the massive Abrams tank that she commands.

    Jones plans to become a drill instructor, in part to show young women – and everybody else – that there’s a role for them in combat.

    “I don’t think they should look at us women as anything different,” Jones said. “As long the job’s getting done, that’s the No. 1 priority.”

    Staff Sergeant Ricora Jones sits in a tank simulator before training with her crew on March 20, 2023. Jones is the tank commander and helped lead the team in the close combat tactical training.

    How women could ease recruiting crunch

    The Army, facing its worst recruiting crisis since Vietnam, strains to meet its priorities without more soldiers. Women seizing a more prominent role in combat, some soldiers say, could ease the recruiting crunch.

    Ten years after the Pentagon repealed the ban on women serving in ground combat positions, female soldiers have risen in the ranks of these frontline units. Yet the intractable problem of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks – reports surged in the Pentagon’s most recent survey – threatens progress. One female combat officer recalled during reporting of this story of being told by a male senior officer that she’d have received better reviews if she had slept with her superiors.

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