Women Called Integral to Military Success; Panetta: They Should Be Allowed to Pursue Any Job, If Qualified

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in lifting a ban on women serving in combat, said women had become integral to the militarys success and have shown they are willing to fight and die alongside male counterparts.

The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality, Panetta said Thursday at a Pentagon news conference with Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Panetta said not all women will be able to meet the qualifications to be a combat soldier.

But everyone is entitled to a chance, he said.

He said those qualifications will not be lowered, and with women playing a broader role, the military will be strengthened.

Panetta said his visits to Afghanistan and Iraq to see U.S. forces in action demonstrated to him that women should have a chance to perform combat duties if they wish, and if they can meet the qualifications.

Our military is more capable, and our force is more powerful, when we use all of the great diverse strengths of the American people, Panetta said Thursday at a Pentagon ceremony in remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Panetta is expected to step down as Pentagon chief sometime in February. Republican Former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has been nominated as his successor, and his Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Every person in todays military has made a solemn commitment to fight, and if necessary to die, for our nations defense, he said. We owe it to them to allow them to pursue every avenue of military service for which they are fully prepared and qualified. Their career success and their specific opportunities should be based solely on their ability to successfully carry out an assigned mission. …

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