Pentagon to allow women in combat roles for first time

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated onWednesday, Jan. 23, that the Pentagon is removing its ban on women in combat.

Some positions will now be open,according to defense officials, but not all. Panetta and Joint Chiefs ChairmanGen. Martin Dempsey will “initiate a process whereby the services will developplans to implement this decision,” a senior defense official said.

“The special operations command willcontinue to access, develop and validate gender neutral standards so that wecan start assigning personnel to previously closed occupations,” Dempsey saidat the announcement Jan. 24.

Service leaders will have a trial periodbetween now and a goal of January 2016 in which they can suggest “exceptions,”or areas that should remain male-only, according to a memo released jointly byDempsey and Panetta.

Former Air Force Reserve staff sergeantand UTSA senior Michelle Palmer agreed with Panetta’s decision. “I know manyfemale troops that have already served overseas and in combat,” Palmer said.“If a female soldier is able to hold her own in training and meet all the samerequirements as the male troops, I don’t see any reason why the female soldiershould be denied the same opportunities.”

Panetta opened his announcement on Jan.24 by saying, “One of my priorities as Secretary of Defense has been to removeas many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able toserve this country in uniform.”

According to Panetta, for over a year,he, Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been exploring the possibleexpansion of women’s crucial role in the armed services, on and off the battlefield. Panetta went on to say that women make up 15 percent of the armedservices, yet many positions prohibit women to serve.

These changes will impact the Army andMarine Corps the most. Both branches will examine the physical standards andgender-neutral arrangements within combat units and report their progress every90 days, according to CNN.

In a prepared statement, President Obamasaid, “Earlier today, I called Secretary of Defense Panetta to express mystrong support for this decision, which will strengthen our military, enhanceour readiness and be another step toward fulfilling our nation’s foundingideals of fairness and equality.”

Panetta made the announcement followinghis plans for resignation from the Pentagon. Former Neb. Senator Chuck Hagelhas been nominated to replace Panetta and is currently going through thenomination process, according to Politico.

On Jan. 24, Panetta said, “There are noguarantees of success. Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier,but everyone is entitled to a chance.”