Does this mean that women will now have to register with the Selective Service as well?
In a historic action, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today will remove the ban on women in combat that has excluded them from jobs ranging from infantry squad leaders and tank gunners to commandoes.
The decision, praised by women's advocates but denounced by the conservative Family Research Council, ends a 1994 Pentagon policy that barred women from high-risk ground combat jobs.
Women often have seen combat anyway over the past decade, as 283,000 of them went to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a Congressional Research Service report, with 144 killed and 855 wounded.
“I remember in 1990 when we went into the first Gulf War, there was an uproar about women going to the front lines and talking about women being taken away from their children and having to go to war, having to go into combat,” said Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, a retired Air Force major general.
“Then when we went into the Iraqi war (in 2003), there were no longer those kinds of issues,” she said. “Those issues weren't raised because people were recognizing that we've done this for a long time, women are trained to do this.”
Military officials said Panetta would unveil details in a news conference this afternoon.
An implementation period is expected, though details of how the service branches will phase in the policy weren't clear.
Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women's Action Network, which joined three officers and an Army staff sergeant in lawsuit led by the ACLU to overturn the policy, called the decision a historic moment.
The policy, and laws before it, were rooted in a military long segregated by color, ethnicity and gender. But barriers to women had fallen over the decades, especially after the Women's Army Corps was disbanded in 1978.
The combat exclusion policy had barred women from serving in around 238,000 jobs, said Bhagwati, who noted that many of those positions set the stage for higher-ranking assignments. Giving women the chance to compete for combat roles, she predicted, would improve retention and recruiting.
Women make up 14 percent of the 1.4 million troops in the armed forces
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