A New Role for Women Panetta to Announce Combat Ban's End Today -BYLN- Associated Press Associated Press
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 may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer. The services also will have until January 2016 to make a case to 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.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat and a former Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost her legs during a mission in Iraq in 2004 when her helicopter was hit by fire, defended the action.
On CNN Wednesday, she reminded critics that, "there are many different combat jobs, tank commanders in armor, artillery, those are combat jobs as well as so are infantry ... So, you know what? Let's just open it up, make it based on performance. If the women can't meet the standards, then they don't get to graduate from the program to do the mission. But if they can meet the standards, then we just have gained another soldier who is willing to serve this nation and willing to lay their lives down in a combat role. …