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US Military Opens Combat Jobs to Women


Yesterday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the U.S. military to open combat roles to women, including about 220,000 jobs in infantry, armor, and special operations units. All branches, including the Marine Corps, which previously asked for an exception, will have 30 days to submit plans outlining how they will make the change by April 1.


(Photo Credit: The U.S. Army/Flickr)

“We are a joint force, and I have decided to make a decision which applies to the entire force,” Carter said in a televised statement.

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Carter also noted that women have already served with distinction in combat.

“The issue of women in combat per se was no longer a question,” he said. “It was a reality, because women had seen combat throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — serving, fighting and in some cases making the ultimate sacrifice alongside their fellow comrades in arms.”

At The LA Times, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon cites the examples of Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a National Guard soldier who fought against insurgents after her convoy was ambushed in Iraq, and Army Specialist Monica Lin Brown, who in her role as a medic in Afghanistan, ran through gunfire to save lives. Both have received the Silver Star.

In 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the nearly 20-year-old ban on women in combat, and set a deadline: by the end of 2015, all branches would either have to include women in combat roles, or justify their exclusion.

The Marine Corps had earlier argued for an exception. Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the Marine Corps commandant, cited studies that showed less effectiveness in mixed-gender units. However, in a statement after the announcement, the Marine Corps announced that it would abide by the decision:

“The Marine Corps has received the secretary’s decision and will immediately commence the process of further implementing the policy change, to include sharing plans and lessons learned with the other services. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure the men and women who earn the title ‘Marine’ will be ready to fight and win.”

Over the course of the year, other barriers have fallen for women pursuing military careers in combat roles. In August, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School. Military officials also announced plans this year to include women in the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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