Ban on women in combat overturned
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 00:01
The US Department of Defense announced Thursday it will lift the ban on women in combat positions, opening about 237,000 positions to women.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made the announcement in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“It’s clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation,” Panetta said. “Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000. They’re serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield. The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.”
The service of women in the military is one large reason it remains all-volunteer. Panetta made the decision at the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in the midst of lawsuits by military women who have been passed over for positions because they were female.
Former UConn men’s basketball Head Coach and Army veteran Dee Rowe said he supports the decision.
“I have six daughters. My daughters would be thrilled for this, and I would want to fully support it. I know my daughters will be cheering. I was taken with the decision. You say ‘equality,’ I’m all for equality,” Rowe said.
But Rowe said as a veteran, he recognizes there must be an adequate vetting process for allowing soldiers on the front lines.
“I never served in combat, but I know it takes a mindset that not everyone has. I’d want to know how the decisions were made to put these people on the front lines. That goes for men and women.”
Panetta, who gave the official announcement shortly after Rowe’s interview, said those standards are not going to be compromised.
“Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to a chance,” Panetta said. “If they can meet the qualifications for the job, they should have to serve regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual orientation.”
Col. Ellen Haring was one of two women who filed the first lawsuit to reverse the ban said she is “stunned and then ecstatic.”
“It sounds today like they plan to open everything to women. Nobody ever asked for special consideration or reduced standards. Just let us compete at the standards as they exist,” Haring told NPR news.
Of the approximately 237,000 positions now available to women, 184,000 are in combat arms professions and 53,000 are assignments that were closed based on unit type.
This expands Panetta’s 2012 decision to open certain battalion level jobs in combat positions and lift the ban on allowing women to work in field jobs required to be “co-located” with ground combat units. That announcement was made on Feb. 9 and opened an additional 14,325 jobs to women.
Both decisions have effectively ebbed away the 1994 decision by the department to keep women banned from direct combat, and is the largest expansion of military jobs to women since reforms in April 1993 opened 200,000 non-combat.