TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Pentagon officials said Friday that an Army colonel who wrote an internal email suggesting photos of attractive women should be avoided in promotional materials has stepped down from her duties involving a gender study.
Army spokesman George Wright said Col. Lynnette Arnhart had agreed to step aside, and Gen. Robert Cone, commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Va., had accepted the gender integration study’s leadership change “in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing work on gender integration in the Army.”
The content of the email was first reported by Politico this week. In the email, Arnhart stated that “average-looking women” should be used in Army materials used to attract women for combat roles, Politico reported.
In addition, Wright said that Col. Christian Kubik, a public affairs officer also with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, was suspended for his involvement in the email pending an investigation.
According to the email chain obtained by Politico, Kubik forwarded Arnhart’s email to other public affairs officers, cautioning the use of photos “that glamourize women” would undermine the Army’s gender integration efforts.
Wright confirmed that the email existed but didn’t provide copies to The Associated Press. Messages seeking comment from Arnhart, who worked at the Training and Doctrine Command’s analysis center at Fort Leavenworth, and Kubik about the staff changes weren’t immediately returned.
Earlier Friday, Kubik said in a statement that Arnhart’s comments were internal, “nothing more” and didn’t reflect official Army policy.
“The intent was to help ensure that images depict professional female soldiers as they are,” he said. “And to ensure that they are recognized on their hard-earned achievements as members of the professional arms.”
Theresa Vail, a Kansas Army National Guard soldier who is also the reigning Miss Kansas, was critical of the email, saying Arnhart’s comments reflected entrenched stereotypes that attractive women aren’t competent enough to serve in combat or other military roles.
“It’s the sad truth. It’s the unfortunate reality,” Vail said Friday. “From what I’ve been getting, women are outraged.”
The military is trying to figure out how to implement policy changes to move women into battlefront jobs, including infantry, armor and elite commando positions. Updated physical and mental standards that are equal for men and women are being devised for thousands of combat jobs. The military has until Jan. 1, 2016, to open as many jobs as possible to women and explain why if they decide to keep some closed.
Vail, 23, enlisted in the Army when she was 17 and was told she “too pretty join the military,” she said.
“I’ve always been stereotyped. I pray that more women will stand up to this and take a stand,” Vail said. “It’s not going to just take me. It’s going to take an army of women.”
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