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3rd Infantry Division commander discusses women in combat, readiness
Rainey reporter meeting Kenney
Maj. Gen. Jim Rainey addresses a gathering of reporters Friday on Fort Stewart. He covered several topics during the discussion. - photo by Photo by Cailtin Kenney

Maj. Gen. Jim Rainey, the commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division, addressed reporters Friday, saying he is working to make sure soldiers are ready for any mission and that their families are being cared for when they are deployed.

Rainey took command of 3rd ID in Afghanistan in August.

He met with news media at division headquarters Friday afternoon to discuss the status of the division and his thoughts on the community.

The Marne Division

Since coming to Fort Stewart and seeing 3rd ID up close, Rainey said he was “very, very impressed and very proud to be part of the 3rd Infantry Division.”

“All of the divisions in the Army are incredible and all have their special unique capabilities,” He said. “The thing about the 3rd Infantry Division is the fact that it’s part of XVIII Airborne Corps, which is our Army’s rapid deployment and rapid response force.

“The sense of purpose that our soldiers have about the possibility that they could be asked to go to war and deploy, generates a level of readiness that is absolutely phenomenal,” he added. “The way we approach training, the way we approach taking care of people.”

In addition to readiness, the relationship and support from Hinesville and Savannah for Fort Stewart “is the best I’ve seen anywhere in the 28 years I’ve been in the Army,” Rainey said.

Even with his schedule and traveling, Rainey said, “I’ll just be honest with you, I love it down here … what a great place to live.”


Rainey was asked about a recent Pentagon announcement that the military will send more troops to Iraq. He said 3rd ID does not currently have deployment orders to the country.

He then said the division is busy, mentioning as an example the deployments of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team to Europe as U.S. Army Europe’s Regionally Allocated Force and 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Africa as regionally aligned to U.S. Army Africa.

“Third Infantry Division is currently right now, today, in 20 different countries across the world, supporting four different combatant commanders,” Rainey added.

Even though soldiers, such as those from 1st ABCT, are not going to war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan, their deployment away from their families is still felt, according to Rainey, and he is making a commitment to meet the needs of the families.

“So it’s very important to me and to everybody here … that we continue to provide the support that our families need,” he said.
Later in the reporters’ roundtable, when asked again about the possibility of deploying to Iraq considering 3rd ID’s history in the region, Rainey said he does not think the division has a higher chance of going to Iraq versus any other possible mission. He added that in order to be ready for any operation, soldiers must focus on the fundamentals.

“So I put our energy into being ready to answer the requirements, and if the president needs forces and the Army gets asked and the Army calls 3rd ID, I expect our forces to be ready to go wherever that is and whenever we were asked,” he said. “So we’re focusing on generating readiness to be responsive to deploy and fight and win.”

Military jobs for women

Toward the end of the reporters’ roundtable, Rainey was asked about the integration of women into combat jobs and when Fort Stewart might start seeing women in those positions. He estimated it would be sometime in 2017.

Rainey first said women are already in combat and there are “phenomenal women leaders” in the Army. He also said he does not find it “helpful to group soldiers in a collective basis.”

“So I tell you that to tell you my concern is if an infantry platoon leader is physically and mentally tough, knows how to fight, knows how to train, and knows how to take care of the families that they’re responsible for, that’s what I care about,” Rainey said. “So whether that’s a great female infantry platoon leader or a mediocre male … I personally am not putting a lot of energy into figuring out whether it’s right or wrong because I evaluate every human being in my life, but especially in my professional life, on an individual basis.”

Rainey was chief of infantry, otherwise known as the commandant of the Infantry School, at Fort Benning when the Army allowed women to attend Ranger School in 2015.

And as the Army integrates women into the combat jobs, there will be “some friction” and there will be a “period of learning,” according to Rainey, but in the end “my personal opinion, I think we’ll be a better Army for it.”

Rainey mentioned that earlier Friday he promoted aviation officer Khirsten Schwenn from major to lieutenant colonel. He referred to her experience gained in five combat tours, leadership positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that she had just been selected for battalion command.

“So going back to my point about individuals, right, not groups. I would put her up against anybody in the Army that I know,” Rainey said. “Not any woman I know in the Army, but any officer I know in the Army.”

“So as long as we pick the right person,” he added, “for the right job for the right reason, based on their abilities to do things like lead, train, fight, take care of people, I think it’s going to make the Army stronger in the long run.”

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