America allows women to serve in combat

FLASHBACK: Female US soldiers join a patrol in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004.
FLASHBACK: Female US soldiers join a patrol in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004.

WASHINGTON — United States Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a senior Pentagon official has said.

The move could open hundreds of thousands of frontline positions and elite commando jobs to women.

It overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to small ground-combat units.

But the military would have until 2016 to argue for any specific posts they think should remained closed to women.

The decision was expected to be formally announced today.

The senior defence official said: “This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop plans to implement this decision, which was made by the secretary of defence upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Military chiefs will be asked to report back to Panetta by May 15 on their initial plans to implement the new policy.

Some jobs are expected to be opened to women this year, while others – including for special forces such as the Navy Seals and the Delta Force – could take longer.

230,000 combat roles

This decision could open more than 230,000 combat roles to women, many in infantry units.

Senate armed services committee chairman Carl Levin welcomed the decision.

“I support it,” he said. “It reflects the reality of 21st-Century military operations.”

That was echoed by Major Mary Jennings Hegar, who served on three tours of Afghanistan with the US Air Force.

“It’s not about whether or not we’re allowing women into combat – women are in combat – it’s about recognising their service,” she said.

“I understand that stereotypically there are some physical differences but … there are a lot of men doing these jobs who are not built like Goliath. It’s unfortunate that we have to hold women to a higher standard.” (BBC)

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