March 7, 2014

Coastal Riverine Force admits women to combat billets

Chief Engineman Patricia Cooper, a student in the Riverine Combat Skills course, patrols the training grounds during a field training exercise in Camp Lejeune, N.C. This class is the first RCS training group composed of Coastal Riverine Force sailors and the first to incorporate women into the course. RCS is a five-week class that teaches CORIVFOR Sailors combat skills, weapons fundamentals and equipment, land navigation, urban operations, offensive and defensive patrolling, and communications.

The Department of the Navy announced March 7 that women can now be assigned to previously closed positions in the Coastal Riverine Force, continuing in the Department of Defense’s rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule.

The 30-day Congressional notification requirement ended March 6, which now opens 267 Navy positions in the Coastal Riverine Force for the assignment of women. The 267 Navy positions in the CRF small craft include both female officers and enlisted.

“Our continuing effort to maximize all professional opportunities for women in the Navy and Marine Corps takes another step with the opening the Coastal Riverine Force to female officers and Sailors,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “We consistently strive to ensure all Sailors and Marines, regardless of gender, have a path toward a successful military career. This not only makes us better war fighters, but it ensures our Navy and Marine Corps remains the finest expeditionary fighting force in the world.”

With the opening of these billets to females, the only remaining community that is still closed to women is Special Warfare – an issue Special Operations Command and the Navy continue work on together.

Thirteen women have been identified as the first candidates for the newly opened positions. Since last fall, nine enlisted women have been administratively assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 2, Delta Company, 1st Platoon, located in Portsmouth, Va.

The administrative assignment was done to assist with management of the training cycle, in anticipation of Secretary of Defense and Congressional approval to open previously excluded billets to women. CRS-2 will be the first unit in the CRF to assign women to boats capable of the Riverine mission.

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Brittney Hellwig, far right, a student in the Riverine Combat Skills course observes her classmates approximate the distance from their targets during the range estimations portion of a field training exercise in Camp Lejeune, N.C. This is the first RCS training group composed of Coastal Riverine Force sailors and the first to incorporate women into the course. RCS is a five-week class that teaches CORIVFOR Sailors combat skills, weapons fundamentals and equipment, land navigation, urban operations, offensive and defensive patrolling, and communications.

The nine women in CRS-2 have completed the required training, have been screened for the billets, and all nine have been awarded their Navy Enlisted Classification. The end of the congressional notification period clears the way for these women to deploy with their squadron and potentially be assigned as crewmembers on boats.

There are two other active component squadrons with the same mission: Coastal Riverine Squadron Four in Virginia Beach, Va., and Coastal Riverine Squadron Three, in San Diego.

With the complex and intense training required of Coastal Riverine Sailors, and in preparation for the lifting of the women in combat exclusion, both Squadrons are implementing plans to incorporate women into squadrons capable of the Riverine mission as soon as feasible.

CRS-2 is scheduled to deploy this summer and is currently in pre-deployment training.

CRS-4 recently returned from deployment and CRS-3, Delta Company, recently deployed.

CRF operates in harbors, rivers, bays, across the littorals and ashore. The primary mission of CRF is to conduct maritime security operations across all phases of military operations by defending high value assets, critical maritime infrastructure, ports and harbors both inland and on coastal waterways against enemies, and when commanded conduct offensive combat operations.

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