Friday, January 25, 2013

Women soldiers in combat

The road to a top job in the American armed forces lies in the combat branches, and soldiers can be forgiven for wanting combat experience. Women soldiers (and sailors and airmen? Is there a gender neutral word for soldiers in the Air Force?) are no exception, but have been excluded from "combat" assignments. (Of course, particularly in anti-insurgent and anti-terrorist warfare, where there are no front lines, women soldiers have increasingly often been thrust into combat.)

It appears that this is another repugnance that is fading away (not without opposition): Formally Lifting a Combat Ban, Military Chiefs Stress Equal Opportunity

"WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Thursday formally lifted the military’s ban on women in combat, saying that not every woman would become a combat soldier but that every woman deserved the chance to try.
"In the most vocal official opposition to the changes, Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is set to become the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, warned that some in Congress may seek legislation to limit the combat jobs open to women.

“I want everyone to know that the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which I am the ranking member, will have a period to provide oversight and review,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement. “During that time, if necessary, we will be able to introduce legislation to stop any changes we believe to be detrimental to our fighting forces and their capabilities. I suspect there will be cases where legislation becomes necessary.”

"Pentagon officials said that the different services would have until May 15 to submit their plans for carrying out the new policy, but that the military wanted to move as quickly as possible to open up combat positions to women. Military officials said that there were more than 200,000 jobs now potentially open to women in specialties like infantry, armor, artillery and elite Special Operations commando units like the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.

"If a service determines that a specialty should not be open to women, Pentagon officials said that representatives of the service would have to make the case to the defense secretary by January 2016."

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