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Army colonel looking for 'more average looking women' in military steps down

A U.S. Army colonel who wrote an email suggesting attractive women should not be portrayed in Army promotional materials stepped down from her job Friday.
Cadets of The United States Military Academy walk to their seats for a graduation and commissioning ceremony May 26, 2012 in West Point, New York.
Cadets of The United States Military Academy walk to their seats for a graduation and commissioning ceremony May 26, 2012 in West Point, New York.

The U.S. Army colonel who suggested "more average looking women" for Army promotional materials resigned from her post Friday. 

An internal Army email first leaked by Politico showed Colonel Lynette Arnhart arguing that using images of pretty women would undermine the military's marketing strategy of introducing prospective female candidates to the "dirty work" of any combat role.  

"In order to protect the integrity of the ongoing work on gender integration in the Army, Col. Lynette Arnhart agreed to step down as the gender integration study director," an Army spokesperson announced Friday. 

The recipient of Arnhart's email, the public affairs officer at the Army Training and Doctrine Command, was also suspended.

Arnhart used the photo of Cpl. Kristine Tejada of the 1st Cavalry division on deployment in Iraq as the crux of her argument. Tejada's photo was included in an article of the Nov. 2013 issue of Army magazine. 

Colonel Arnhart's email stated that less attractive women are perceived as competent while attractive women are perceived to have used their looks to climb the ranks. 

“There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person), said Arnhart, who led an Army research project that analyzed how to improve the Army's integration of women. "It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty).” 

Army spokesman Colonel Chris Kubik said the comments were "an internal discussion" and "not reflective of Army policy" in a statement to NBC News. 

"The intent of the message was to help ensure that images depict professional female Soldiers as they are, and to ensure they are recognized based on their hard-earned achievements as members of the profession of arms," Kubrik wrote. 

The news emerged the same week the first three female Marines graduated from the Marine Corps' combat infantry training. 

The Pentagon announced plans earlier this year to open front-line combat units to women as early as next year.

NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube contributed to this report.