New Pentagon Rules Allow Putting Women Closer to Combat

The Pentagon is to open military jobs such as medics and intelligence officers to women in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, a step that will put them closer to the fighting and rekindle the debate on women in combat.

Army Pfc. Shari Crump (center) listens to a convoy brief by her platoon leader prior to a resupply mission at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., on Jan. 22, 2012. Crump is a truck driver assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's, 1st Brigade Combat Team. Photo: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod/U.S. Army via Flickr.

The Pentagon is recommending to Congress that women should be allowed to serve in more jobs closer to the front lines. The change would open up about 14,000 additional jobs to women, says the Washington Times.

“Secretary (Leon) Panetta believes that this is the beginning, not the end of a process,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said. “The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened to women.”

However, the changes in the rules aren’t coming fast enough for some in Congress or the military. They noted that the rules still forbid women to serve as infantry, armor and special operations forces, which are the most dangerous combat jobs.

“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission. Through their courage, sacrifice, patriotism and great skill, women have proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles on and off the battlefield,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said.

“We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so.”

The changes also reflect what has been happening during Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They will allow women to perform many of the jobs they are already doing, but in smaller units, closer to the fighting and once considered too dangerous.

“Unfortunately, the conclusions of this report do not go far enough,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Sanchez said she was “very disappointed” that the Defense Department didn’t lift the ban on combat jobs for women.

Despite the Pentagon’s decision to lift the barriers to women but that it was difficult to make sweeping changes on the battlefield during a time of war.

“Sometimes this takes longer than you’d like,” said Virginia S. Penrod, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy. “It may appear too slow to some, but I see this as a great step forward.”

According to a policy adopted in 1994, women can in combat units only as medics, intelligence officers and other jobs at the brigade level, which is a force of around 3,500 people.

But women can’t perform the same job in a battalion, which is as small as a few hundred troops and whose forces are more likely to be directly exposed to combat.

“To continue such a ban is to ignore the talents and leadership that women bring to the military,” claimed Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps captain, “and it further penalizes servicewomen by denying them the opportunity for future promotions and assignments that are primarily given to personnel from combat arms specialties.”

“It’s time military leadership establish the same level playing field to qualified women to enter the infantry, special forces and other all-male units,” she added.

“The military has sometimes gotten around the rules by attaching women to battalions, which allowed them to work in the smaller units but kept them from officially receiving credit for being in combat,” says Reuters.

As officials claim, as combat experience is a factor in promotions and job advancement in the military, women have faced more problems than men when moving up to the top ranks.

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