WASHINGTON -- In a historic move that strengthens America’s armed forces, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has ordered all combat roles in the U.S. military open to women.
“To succeed in our mission of national defense, we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country’s talents and skills,” Carter said. “This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”
The decision to allow women in combat positions caps another milestone in women’s involvement in the U.S. military. From the American Revolution to the present war on terrorism, women have served in the military, from support to leadership roles.
“In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our courageous women in uniform have served with honor, on the front lines — and some have given their very lives,” President Obama said.
The Pentagon order opens the final 10 percent of military positions to women and allows them to serve in tough jobs, including special operations forces like the Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force units.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter said. “And even more importantly, our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer.”Women have gradually taken on military roles previously open only to men over the past couple of decades. In 1995 women pilots began flying combat missions, and in 2010 the Navy announced women could serve on submarines. Earlier in 2015, the U.S. Army Ranger School graduated the first women from its program.
The three-year review that led to the decision came after rigorous analysis of data.
The military has developed guidelines for putting women in combat jobs now that the barriers are gone. Carter cautioned that this process will take time and effort.
“Implementation won’t happen overnight,” he said. “And while at the end of the day this will make us a better and stronger force, there still will be problems to fix and challenges to overcome.”
Did you know that some women disguised themselves as men to fight in the American Revolution? Check out this timeline to learn more: