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Pentagon Removes Ban on Women in Combat
Source: Ernesto Londoño,
The Washington Post, January 23, 2013
Outgoing Defense Secretary
Leon E. Panetta announced Thursday a lifting of the
ban on female service members in combat roles, a watershed policy change that was
informed by women’s valor in Iraq and Afghanistan and that removes the remaining
barrier to a fully inclusive military, defense officials said.
Panetta made the decision “upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff,” a senior defense official said Wednesday, an assertion that stunned female veteran
activists who said they assumed that the brass was still uneasy about opening the most
physically arduous positions to women. The Army and the Marines, which make up the
bulk of the military’s ground combat force, will present plans to open most jobs to
women by May 15.
The Army, by far the largest fighting force, currently excludes women from
nearly 25 percent of active-duty roles. A senior defense official said the Pentagon expects
to open “many positions” to women this year; senior commanders will have until January
2016 to ask for exceptions.
“The onus is going to be on them to justify why a woman can’t serve in a
particular role,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the
plan before the official announcement.
The decision comes after a decade of counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and
Afghanistan, where women demonstrated heroism on battlefields with no front lines. It
dovetails with another seismic policy change in the military that has been implemented
relatively smoothly: the repeal of
the ban on openly gay service members.
Lawmakers and female veterans applauded Wednesday’s news, saying the ban on
women in combat roles is obsolete.
“This is monumental,” said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain and executive
director of the Service Women’s Action Network, which has advocated for the full
inclusion of women. “Every time equality is recognized and meritocracy is enforced, it
helps everyone, and it will help professionalize the force.”
Critics of opening combat positions to women have argued for years that
integration during deployments could create a distracting, sexually charged atmosphere in
the force and that women are unable to perform some of the more physically demanding
Advocates and experts say women are unlikely to flock to those positions, such as
roles in light infantry and tank units and Special Forces — although some may. More
substantively, they say, lifting the ban will go a long way toward changing the culture of
a male-dominated institution in which women have long complained about discrimination
and a high incidence of sexual assault.
Lawmakers and advocates have long pressed the Pentagon to create a more
inclusive force, yielding incremental changes. The American Civil Liberties Union
recently sued the Pentagon over its policy, calling it discriminatory.
Last year, military officials opened numerous job categories to women after a
study concluded that the Defense Department was ready for greater inclusion in combat
units. That made it easier for women to be assigned, for example, to combat brigades as
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radio operators. It also gave commanders a sense of how a broader integration process
could work, said an Army general who played a key role in last year’s effort to open new
positions for women.
“The average professional will say, ‘I’ve served with women at all levels, and
based on my experience, women have done a phenomenal job,’ ” said the officer, who
spoke on the condition of anonymity because the change had not been formally
The debate over the supposed pitfalls of women and men sharing close quarters
has been rendered moot by the recent wars, he said, adding: “If you were having this
debate in peacetime, it might be more emotional.”
The fact that women have excelled in de facto front-line roles in Iraq and
Afghanistan has proved such concerns unwarranted, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the head
of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
“The reality is that so many women have been, in effect, in combat or quasicombat,”
he said. “This is catching up with reality.”
In a statement, Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the leading Republican on the
Armed Services Committee, voiced a measure of concern, saying last year’s study raised
“serious practical barriers” that, if ignored, could jeopardize the “safety and privacy” of
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another member of the panel, said he supports the
decision, but he alluded to some of the thorny implementation issues that have yet to be
“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,” he said in a statement.
The senior defense official said the Pentagon expects to have gender-neutral
standards for combat jobs.
Overall, women make up about 14 percent of the active-duty military. According
to the Defense Department, 152 female troops have been killed in the Iraq and Afghan
The Pentagon announced last February that it would
open about 14,000 combatrelated
o female troops. But an estimated 238,000 other jobs — about one-fifth
of the regular active-duty military — were kept off limits to women. Virtually all of those
jobs were in the Army and Marine Corps.
Panetta, who is expected to step down soon, has long favored a more inclusive
military, and after last year’s review, the senior defense official said, the Joint Chiefs and
service chiefs began seeing eye to eye on the issue.
Jan. 9 letter to Panetta, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, wrote that the chiefs “unanimously” supported his goal of integrating
women into “occupational fields to the maximum extent possible.”
“The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to
eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service,” he wrote.
“It is a paradigm shift for the military,” the senior defense official said, “one that
everyone is ready to make.”
Do you support the allowance of women into combat positions? Why? Why
|Posted by Robert Bullock | 0 comments|
In the third story, Trail of Tears, Tingle describes families being forcibly removed from their homes. "On September, 27, 1830, a Treaty was signed at Dancing Rabbit Creek, Mississippi, calling for the removal of the Choctaw to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The journey was to begin in the spring of 1831, allowing the Choctaw time to arrange their affairs. In some communities white settlers, eager for the best farmland, initiated a campaign to burn homes and drive Choctaws into the woods. The winter of 1830-1831 was the most severe yet recorded and Choctaw casualities were high."
What ethical (the right thing to do) justification does one group have to force another group from the land they occupy?
What should Kentuckians do today if faced with an invading foreign power who gives the command to leave Kentucky and move to Arizona, or be wiped out? Carefully consider your answer - look at it as if you were a parent, responsible for the lives of all your family members.
What unanticipated challenges are faced on the journey and in the perceived Promised Land?
What is your personal and family idea of home?
Have you ever had to relocate and if so what challenges did you face?
How is having to move from one's home and having to relocate similar to the Choctaw's experience? How is your experience different from that of the Choctaw nation?
|Posted by Robert Bullock at 10:09 AM | 55 comments|
What do you think is meant by the phrase "broken promises" at the beginning of the song "Trail of Tears"?
|Posted by Robert Bullock at 10:07 AM | 0 comments|
What miracle occured due to the good-hearted people that were willing to work and to enable this wrong to be made right?
What is the Choctaw way of doing things? How did the little girl seem to "get it"?
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