Outgoing defense secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Thursday that the military will be lifting a 1994 ban on women in combat.
Roughly a dozen other nations, including Germany and Israel, allow women into “close combat roles” which means engaging with an enemy on the ground, exposed to hostile fire and with a high probability of physical contact with hostile forces.
There were hints at policy shift in October 2012 when the Marine Corps put the first women through the Infantry Officer Course, a course that 1 in 5 marines fail.
However, those who have had experience in Iraq and Afghanistan say that women have been playing an increasingly large role in combat efforts for many years.
At a Pentagon news conference Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he noticed the change in 2003 after arriving in Baghdad when a woman named Amanda was driving his Humvee.
“So a female turret gunner is protecting a division commander,” Gen. Dempsey said. “And it’s from that point on that I realized something had changed, and it was time to do something about it.”
During the annoucement, Panetta recognized the contributions that women have been making in the current wars, and said that “valor knows no gender.”
DePaul senior Samantha Schimmel said, “I absolutely do not think women fighting in combat should be mandantory. But if a woman wants to fight in combat, she should be allowed to in a heartbeat. More power to her.”
Even with the lift on the ban not all of the roughly 237,000 positions that were previously closed to women will be open automatically.
Instead, there will be a review of each unit and specialty position and the Senate Armed Services Committee will have oversight and review of the process.
Some of the positions are likely to become open later this year, but the military, and the Senate Armed Forces Committee have until January 2016 to make a case that particular positions should still remain off-limits to women.
It is expected that decisions on Navy SEAL and the Army’s Delta Force will take the longest.
Senator James Inhofe, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, has expressed his concern over lifting the ban and said in a press release that “if necessary, [the committee]will be able to introduce legislation to stop any changes we believe to be detrimental to our fighting forces and their capabilities.”
Ryan Manly, a former Marine Rifleman, said, “personally, I don’t have a problem with it.”
He brought up the harsh reality of combat, he said that, “The problem is that when one of your buddies goes down, someone will help him. But when a girl goes down, many people stop fighting to help. Morale goes down afterwards. Basically, a dying woman (messes with) with a guy’s head.”