Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will announce Thursday that the US military is lifting its ban on women in direct combat.
In fact the line between combat and non-combat roles for female soldiers has been blurred for some time, as more than a hundred have been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hundreds more wounded. One of those wounded, Tammy Duckworth, was recently elected to Congress from Illinois.
The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report back on their progress.
“It will take awhile to work out the mechanics in some cases. We expect some jobs to open quickly, by the end of this year. Others, like Special Operations Forces and Infantry, may take longer,” a senior defense official explains. Panetta is setting the goal of January 2016 for all assessments to be complete and women integrated as much as possible.
It will be interesting to see how much opposition there will be to this, and where it comes from. Dare we hope that we have come far enough in recent decades that it won’t be a major issue?