US to Allow Women in Combat: Official

US to Allow Women in Combat: Official
# 24 January 2013 02:02 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. The United States plans to lift its ban on women serving in front-line combat positions, a senior US defense official said Wednesday, signaling a major policy shift that could open the door to hundreds of thousands of new military assignments for women, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.

The move was expected to be announced by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. No date for a formal announcement was given.

“This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop plans to implement this decision, which was made by the Secretary of Defense upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” according to the senior defense official who asked not to be named.

The US news agency The Associated Press, which first reported the move, said Panetta’s decision would give military leaders until January 2016 to advocate for any combat roles they feel should remain off-limits to women.

Female service members have been prohibited formally from serving in combat positions since 1994 and as a practical matter were rarely even considered for front-line combat duty before that.

However female military personnel have worked as medics, military police officers and intelligence officers and have served – and been killed and wounded – in combat even if they were not formally attached to combat units.

In recent years the US military has been moving to open more roles to women. Last year the Department of Defense lifted a ban on women working near combat units, making positions such as tank mechanic and field artillery radar operator available to them.

Some female service members have argued that keeping combat off-limits to them amounted to gender discrimination and at least one female officer has sued the US military on the grounds that combat prohibition had prejudiced her career in the Marine Corps.

There were about 205,000 women on active duty in the US military in 2012, representing roughly 15 percent of the total US military personnel.