AP, CNN, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST (U.S.)
WASHINGTON- The Pentagon plans to outline details Thursday of a groundbreaking decision to lift a ban on women in front line combat service. This is the second historic reversal of longstanding military bans by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, following the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on gays openly serving in the Armed Services.
According to the Washington Post, women currently make up about 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel. In support of the wars, more than 280,000 woman have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations. About 2% of the more than 6,600 U.S. service members killed were women.
The Associated Press spoke to officials who confirmed that each of the military services must now develop plans that will allow women to seek these potential 230,000 combat positions. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, e.g. special operations forces, including Navy SEALS or Delta Force, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case that some positions should remain closed to women.
Approval of this measure has come from many, including Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain: “As this new rule is implemented, it is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world -- particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite special forces units,” McCain said in a statement, reports CNN.
Reuters reports that the outgoing head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Democratic Senator Patty Murray also voiced her support: “This is an historic step for equality and for recognizing the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation”.
Objections were few but the Washington Post says that when the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered and both failed to complete the course. They also report that there may not be a wide clamoring from women to apply for the intense, dangerous and difficult jobs in the military.
“Not every woman makes a good soldier, but not every man makes a good soldier. So women will compete” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif, according to the AP. “We’re not asking that standards be lowered. We’re saying that if they can be effective and they can be a good soldier or a good Marine in that particular operation, then give them a shot.” [rebelmouse-image 27086182 alt=""First" original_size="499x328" expand=1] First all-female Seebee team in Afghanistan. Photo: US Navy Seebee Museum via Flickr