Women will be allowed to serve as fully-fledged members of front-line U.S. military combat units, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Thursday.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter said, so long as they meet the same physical standards as their male comrades. “They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
Female advocates cheered the change. “It’s a thrilling day for women serving in the military—and for women across the country,” said Nancy Duff Campbell of the National Women’s Law Center. “Thousands of women will now have the opportunity to be all that they can be and our nation’s military will be the stronger for it. Hip, hip, hooray!”
The impact of the decision will take some time. “Implementation won’t happen overnight,” Carter said. Women will have to be trained to fill the slots. While some have already undergone such schooling—three women passed the tough Army Ranger course earlier this year, for example—the Pentagon wants to ensure that it achieves a still-unspecified “critical mass” of such women before introducing them into previously all-male units. A senior Army officer has estimated that while half of incoming male recruits want to “go infantry,” for example, only 10% of female recruits share that sentiment.
The decision comes after decades of allowing women to move ever closer to front-line, direct-ground-combat units: infantry, armor and special operations. While they have been allowed in supporting roles alongside such units—in intelligence and logistics, for example—they were barred by Pentagon policy from standard service in most such outfits. While the Army had recommended to Carter in October that women be allowed to serve in all combat slots, the Marines had recommended against it.
Read the rest of the story here: Time