Carter Announces All Combat Jobs Open to Women


By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that he is ordering the military to open all combat jobs to women. Up until now, ground combat positions have largely been closed off to women, at least officially.

“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,” Carter said.

This order overrules Marine Corps commanders who requested exceptions for a small number of front-line combat jobs, citing studies that they claimed showed all-male combat units were more effective.

Back in 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rescinded a 1994 directive that barred women from ground combat units, but gave each branch until 2016 to evaluate the implications and request any exemptions for specific jobs to remain male-only.

Women represent 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel. Carter noted that about 220,000 military jobs were currently closed to women and would be opened up because of his decision, allowing women to serve in such roles as driving tanks, firing mortars and leading infantry soldiers into combat.

The most immediate issue will be implementation plans, making sure that they are sensible and fair, and not an attempt to hide non-compliance.

Carter said the military would maintain high standards for all combat assignments but explained that some standards were being modified after studies demonstrated they were “outdated” or not reflective of the skills necessary for the jobs.

Defense Secretary Carter says this is about equal opportunity. There are no quotas or guarantees.

“Our force of the future must continue to benefit from the best people America has to offer,” Carter said. “In the 21st century, that includes drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of people.”

Congress has 30 days to review the change and the armed services have until January 1st  to submit plans to implement it.

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Military Connection: USAF to Open All Jobs to Women: By Debbie Gregory

Women in the AF

The U.S. Air Force is looking to open direct-combat related occupations to female airmen by spring, 2016.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, recently announced that she intends to open seven Air Force occupation specialties to women. Sec. James said that the Air Force is in the process of developing gender-neutral standards for the positions. Once these policies can be established, the spots will be open to anyone who is qualified to fill them.

There are only seven Air Force jobs that are currently closed to female airmen. These occupations include: combat control team, combat rescue officer, pararescue, special operation weather (officer and enlisted), special tactics officer, and tactical air control party (TACP). TACPs make up a critical combat occupation specialty, where airmen are assigned to infantry units to coordinate in-close air support from USAF aircraft against enemy targets.

Secretary James’ plan will bring the Air Force in line with the other service branches as to what they are doing to open combat jobs to women.

Back in January, 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all service branches to open all combat jobs to female service members by 2016, or explain why any must remain closed. The Pentagon lifted its ban on women serving in such roles in 2012, but gave the services time to integrate female troops into the male-only, front-line positions.

Currently, women make up about 15% of the U.S. military’s 1.3 million active-duty service members.

In similar efforts, the Navy began allowing female officers to serve on submarines as early as 2010, but has yet to formulate a plan to integrate women into its Basic Underwater Demolition school programs, which includes the Navy SEALs.

The Marine Corps began allowing women to take the Infantry Officer Course, however, no female officers have yet to pass the demanding 13-week program.

In September, the Army announced that it is considering admitting females into their elite Ranger School.

One of the big hang-ups for women moving into the most elite combat roles is that the military will not lower any standards for women. Women are expected to perform at the same standards as men in order to qualify. The Marine Infantry Officer Course is the best example of this. Nearly everyone in uniform agrees that standards need to remain strict. But most people agree, if any service member can qualify for a position, they deserve to work in billets for that occupation.

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Military Connection: USAF to Open All Jobs to Women: By Debbie Gregory