Panetta to remove military ban on women serving in combat

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 3:21 PM
Last updated 10:35 PM
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said Wednesday.

The changes, set to be announced today by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will not happen overnight. The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs might open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force, might take longer. The services also will have until January 2016 to make a case that some positions should remain closed to women.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

Officials briefed The Associated Press on condition of anonymity so they could speak ahead of the official announcement.

There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.

But as news of Panetta’s expected order got out, members of Congress, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced their support.

“It reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” Levin said.

Panetta’s move comes in his final weeks as Pentagon chief and just days after President Obama’s inaugural speech in which he spoke passionately about equal rights for all. The new order expands the department’s action of nearly a year ago to open about 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the Army. Panetta’s decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women.

In addition to questions of strength and performance, there also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women being killed in war.

Under the 1994 Pentagon policy, women were prohibited from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops split into several battalions of about 800 soldiers each. Historically, brigades were based farther from the front lines and they often included top command and support staffers.

The necessities of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached – but not formally assigned – to battalions. So, although a woman couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.

And these conflicts, where battlefield lines are blurred and insurgents can lurk around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat.

Still, as recent surveys and experiences have shown, it will not be an easy transition. When the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered and both failed to complete the course. Also, there might not be a wide clamoring from women for the more intense, dangerous and difficult jobs – including some infantry positions.

In the Navy, however, women have begun moving into the submarine force, with several officers already beginning to serve.

Two lawsuits were filed last year challenging the Pentagon’s ban on women serving in combat, adding pressure on officials to overturn the policy. The military services have been studying the issue and surveying their forces to determine how it may affect performance and morale.

The Joint Chiefs have been meeting regularly on the matter and they unanimously agreed to send the recommendation to Panetta this month.

A senior military official familiar with the discussions said the chiefs concluded this was an opportunity to maximize women’s service in the military.

The official said the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps laid out three main principles to guide them as they move through the process:

– That they were obligated to maintain America’s effective fighting force.

– That they would set up a process that would give all service members, men and women alike, the best chance to succeed.

– That they would preserve military readiness.

Part of the process, the official said, would allow time to get female service members in leadership and officer positions in some of the more difficult job classifications in order to help pave the way for female enlisted troops.

Women comprise about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to jobs in neighboring nations in support of the wars. Of the more than 6,600 who have been killed, 152 have been women.

The senior military official said the military chiefs must report back to Panetta with their initial implementation plans by May 15.

Changing the rules for a potential future draft would be a difficult proposition. The Supreme Court has ruled that because the Selective Service Act is aimed at creating a list of men who could be drafted for combat – and women are not in combat jobs – American women aren’t required to register upon turning 18 as all men are.

If combat jobs open to women, Congress would have to decide what to do about that law.

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Little Lamb
43881
Points
Little Lamb 01/23/13 - 04:29 pm
3
1
Why do we even have a Congress?

You would think it would take an act of Congress to do this.

rugerguy
207
Points
rugerguy 01/23/13 - 05:07 pm
5
2
Congress

Little Lamb, Congress makes the laws. That is why we have them. However, setting military policy or protocol such as this should be done strictly by the Joint Chiefs and DOD acting in accord with the wishes of the Executive Branch. Not having women fight in combat has been POLICY up until now. Times change and no one should be denied the right to fight (and die) for their country based on their sex. I find the death of anyone serving in our military tragic, man or woman. Why should the death of a woman be MORE tragic?

faithson
4785
Points
faithson 01/23/13 - 05:45 pm
7
4
not me

sorry, but even my most progressive and liberal ideals do not include going on patrol with women. Being a Vietnam era vet and MP, I did not see action, but I still cannot for the life of me understand how things can get so mixed up as to believe that in the din of war, women have a place on the front lines where 'blood and guts' reality have always been a 'mans game'. There is a reason, and a good one at that, that we have gender separation at the Olympics games...

billcass
682
Points
billcass 01/23/13 - 06:11 pm
3
3
Good idea

I think it is a good idea This way if we lose a war we can simply say "So what? You beat a bunch of girls."

dichotomy
30650
Points
dichotomy 01/23/13 - 10:53 pm
3
1
"Why should the death of a

"Why should the death of a woman be MORE tragic?"

Well, it's not more tragic.....but it's sure going to make taking a pee in a two-person foxhole more interesting.

Can you imagine the expense, and/or inconvenience, this will cause over the issue of separate bathroom, shower, and sleeping facilities where none were required before.

Darby
23605
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Darby 01/24/13 - 12:58 am
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2
Obviously rugerguy has no concept of combat...

The Israelis tried this approach and if failed miserably. Every time liberals get control of the government they do all they can to weaken and undermine the military. The plan seems to be to nibble around the edges until we have a force not unlike Sweden or Denmark which for some reason liberals always want to use as a model.

When they are finished, we will no longer have the world’s greatest and most respected military, but a laughing stock, incapable of accomplishing its mission.

I was a professional soldier, a Ranger and later a Ranger instructor. As a student my class started with two hundred men. We graduated thirty-six. The standards were incredibly high and they needed to be. Where will Obama's boys in DC be able to find a woman willing or able to rappel down an eighty foot cliff with a two hundred pound "injured" man on her back? The answer is, they won't need to. They'll just lower the standards and eliminate the requirement.

Leon Panetta’s Ranger classes would have an assigned minimum drop-out rate to assure "fairness". What it would also assure would be a lot of dead future Rangers, not qualified to wear the tab.

If you are wondering just how many women are to be found in China's elite special ops units, or ever will be, I can tell you. NONE!

Remember Bill Clinton's plaintive appeal to his congressman to avoid the draft in Viet Nam? He said "I loathe the military." He did then and he and his ilk still do.

It's never been about whose death is more tragic. It's about keeping as many soldiers alive as possible while still able to accomplish the mission and get home safely. One more wake-up call for rugergy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are each and every one, a political appointment. They are the LAST persons on earth who should be making this kind of decision.

The article reads, "The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff....." That is what is called political cover. They made the recommendation because they were given the order to do just that. Every one of those guys is looking forward to his possible appointment to the position of Chairman or on retirement to some other cushy job.

And no, I'm not being misogynistic. I believe women can do almost anything a man can do. But not everything. If our military has any chance of survival, we must draw the line at special ops. It's not at all like the movies and very, very seldom goes off without a major hitch as did the Bin Laden raid.

GiantsAllDay
9063
Points
GiantsAllDay 01/24/13 - 12:55 am
3
4
Remember the 3rd Dirty Harry

Remember the 3rd Dirty Harry movie in 1976? It was called "The Enforcer". In this episode the mayor is hell bent on promoting a woman to the position of inspector, all out of political correctness. So now, this Panetta clown is playing the part of the mayor of San Francisco. Clint is on the interview panel when Tyne Daly walks in. Clint asks her "how fast can you run the 100?". He is immediately cut off for that "inappropriate question". Then he asks her about her most important felony arrest. Answer: I haven't had any. So he asks her about her most important misdemeanor arrest. Answer: I haven't had any of those either. THIS WHERE THE MILITARY IS HEADED FOLKS!!!

rugerguy
207
Points
rugerguy 01/24/13 - 08:29 am
5
0
In agreement

Most women and most men for that fact couldn't qualify for special forces duties. However if one could, it should not be denied to her on the basis of sex. Set the bar high and equal for all. I'm not liberal I'm just sick and tired of any government telling a free people what they can or can't do. BTW, Tyne Daly finally earned Clint's respect in that Dirty Harry movie.

rugerguy
207
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rugerguy 01/24/13 - 08:42 am
3
0
Joint Chiefs

Darby are you calling the Joint Chiefs not qualified to make decisions for the military? It looks like they have put in some substantial time to be where they are. What kind of a wake up call is this?

OpenCurtain
10049
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OpenCurtain 01/24/13 - 08:47 am
3
2
So let me understand

We will again lower the physical fitness requirements, like was done back in 1970's. Just so that NOW and Liberals can say "SEE women could have been doing this job all along."

Having been at SFOD-D, when they were told to build a Pink Team to make the Clinton Administration happy. I frequently got to met and speak with the Pink Team selections, as they were going through TEOR.

Their instructors told me that they had to shave corners on the Q-Course to find about 12 females to appease the Liberal Clinton Administration demands. When I left in 1994, the word was the idea was deemed a failure and the few remaining Pink Team members were disbursed to other units.

Now we have another Liberal Administration doing the same thing all over again.

Well CO-Ed Fox Holes will be interesting for some.

seenitB4
81570
Points
seenitB4 01/24/13 - 08:58 am
2
1
Nope

Just don't see this working myself....& I'll pass ....too many variables of this that & whatever...

nofanofobama
6750
Points
nofanofobama 01/24/13 - 10:17 am
3
0
faithson--who says

faithson--who says conservative and liberals cant agree on something--the military should be for one and only one purpose..to win a fight as quickly as possible with the least amount of casuaslties to our side..we have all society for social experiments and our debates etc , BUT the military and national defense should trump all of the latest fades...

LillyfromtheMills
12654
Points
LillyfromtheMills 01/24/13 - 10:43 am
2
0
I like being a girl

You can do all the things a boys does but you don't have to go to combat! They'd take me kicking and screaming. I've seen too many of the boys w/PTSD - one killed himself - they'd have to put me in a straight jacket when it was over.

LillyfromtheMills
12654
Points
LillyfromtheMills 01/24/13 - 11:32 am
1
0
Looks like I like it twice

Can't remember how to remove 2nd post

onethickdiva
1558
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onethickdiva 01/24/13 - 12:52 pm
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Darby has a point...

And I thought I was completely for it but he does raise valid concerns.

Darby
23605
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Darby 01/24/13 - 05:57 pm
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"Darby are you calling the Joint Chiefs not qualified to.....

...make decisions for the military?

YES, rugerguy, that's EXACTLY what I'm telling you. The job of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is to make recommendations to and to implement the orders of the Commander-In-Chief.

Sounds to me as though you didn't even read the article above: "The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs". As I thought I made clear in my first post, those guys are ALL on political appointment. They make NO decisions on policy other than as a subset of orders emanating from the White House, through the Secretary of Defense.

To deviate from that script would be to threaten their chances of a political career or a great job after retirement as a "military consultant" to a major corporation.

In answer to your second question,yes, that's the kind of wake-call this is.

rugerguy
207
Points
rugerguy 01/24/13 - 04:56 pm
0
0
Got it

Nods, backs down, and acknowledges your evaluation of the true role of the JCS. They have become more politicians than soldiers, yeah right, I get it. Men of such rank and long service are not always just yes men and most never will be but that is an endless debate we can never settle so you have won your point. I'm fully awake.

But getting back to the main topic, what gives anyone the right to disqualify someone solely based on their sex to go into combat? We already have separate facilities for non-combative females. So that argument has no weight. I personally would prefer a world where nobody has to die in combat but, again, why really should women be exempt from serving in combat. Are you saying a woman can't be an effective soldier because of their physique? There are plenty of women who can cut it if they wish. And if they wish, I say let them.

Darby
23605
Points
Darby 01/24/13 - 05:34 pm
1
0
"BTW, Tyne Daly finally earned Clint's respect....

in that Dirty Harry movie." The operative word being MOVIE...

And Demi Moore had no trouble keeping up with her male counterparts in Hollywood's version of Navy Seal training in the movie, GI Jane.

And Arnold traveled from the future to the past in order to kill, then in a sequel, save a damsel in distress. Ain't tinsel town great?!?

Just thinking out loud. Attempting to draw the line here between idealism and reality.

Lower the standards and move on toward your progressive utopia. It will work just fine, until it's battle tested.

Darby
23605
Points
Darby 01/24/13 - 09:24 pm
1
0
"Got it"... No, really don't think you do....

“Men of such rank and long service are not always just yes men and most never will be….”

Not so, men who reach that plateau may be accomplished military leaders but they are also always political animals. Never succumb to the idea that the military is above politics. The higher you go, the more political your career becomes.

Men selected for that job are considered, without exception to be malleable by the presidents who handpick them. Thats why they are picked.

Given what I perceive to be your naiveté, I suspect that I've probably spent more time in the Pentagon cafeteria than you have in military service. That doesn't mean I don't respect your right to comment on the subject. That's the great thing about living in America. (Or it has been for the last couple of hundred years.)

But when you keep returning to the subject of separate restrooms, etc., which I've never mentioned, or a woman's right to serve, I begin to question your motives.

To begin with, in combat, particularly special ops, there aren't any restrooms. You go when and where you can, often in front of your fellow soldiers because there is just no privacy. There is no doubt that there are women who can handle that. I'm much more concerned about the unbelievable physical stress.

I'm more concerned about safely bringing home every mother's son who goes into combat. They deserve that chance. It's never been about fairness. It's always about survival. It's about having one less letter for a leader or commander to have to write to next-of-kin.

I'm so sick and damn tired of politicians and clueless do-gooders playing God with the lives of a military they hold in such absolute contempt.

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