On Jan. 23, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted the military’s official ban on women in combat. This will open hundreds of thousands of additional front-line positions to females in the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and other special forces.
This decision overturns the 1994 Pentagon rule that restricted women from artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles, despite the fact that women have often been in combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As stated by Pentagon officials, hundreds of thousands of women have been in such positions, but now they can be officially recognized by their military branch for their combat service.
As of 2012, more than 800 women have been wounded in such combat situations and more than 130 have died during service.
Women in the military have undergone combat restrictions since their allowance into the armed forces in 1948. Since this time female enlisted and officers have pressured the Pentagon to adapt to “the reality of the battlefield,” as said by Panetta.
Panetta described his decision to remove the combat restriction as, “the beginning of a process,” a process of change in the armed forces.
The decision to lift the combat ban came after Panetta received a Jan. 9 letter from Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
This letter outlined information that stated all armed service chiefs agreed that, “the time has come to rescind the direct combat expulsion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.”
These changes will be implicated as soon as possible by the Pentagon, although they are allowed until 2016 to officiate their decision.
“To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our war-fighting capability or the trust of the American people, we will need time to get it right,” General Dempsey wrote.
This “time to get it right” is in reference to each branches need to singularly implement a plan within the next several months.
A plan that should be completely free of any form of gender bias or segregation, although, if a branch determines that a specific position should not be open to women they will be required to gain approval from the defenses secretary to do so.
The lifting of the ban is intended to have more wide spreading effects than just allowing women on the front line.
As Dempsey wrote in the letter to Panetta, the intent is to ensure women as well as men “are given the opportunity to succeed.”
As of 2012, more than 280,000 women have been deployed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women soldiers who, with the lifting of the military’s official ban on women in combat, now serve their country the same as males.
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