The Pentagon recently announced that women in the military would formally be allowed to serve in certain jobs closer to the front lines, but did not go as far as allowing women to serve in combat.
Women make up almost 15 percent of the active duty military, and more than 255,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 140 women from the U.S. military have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The decision was the result of a year-long review ordered by Congress.
In recognition of the changing roles of female services members in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense’s modifications allow female troops to be eligible for approximately 14,000 new jobs related to combat. It allows women to be permanently assigned to a battalion.
The new positions that will be available include: tank mechanics, radio operators, medics, and intelligence officers. However, women already served in many of these jobs as temporary attachments to the battalions. Furthermore, women will still not qualify for 238,000 other combat positions – approximately 1/5 of all active duty military positions – such as infantry and combat tank units.
The Pentagon’s announcement has already been received with mixed reviews. Some have labeled it, “too little change, a decade too late.”
California Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) found it “ridiculous” to “open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program.”
Some assert that infantry service is an important factor in career advancement in the military and believe that women are unfairly held back.
On the contrary, others think the Pentagon’s new rules went too far. Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum stated that having women in combat is “not in the best interests of men, women or the mission.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis also indicated that he does not think the new policy promotes national security.
The lift on these restrictions will gradually go into effect, beginning in March, if Congress does not oppose it.