U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that women will now be able to serve as full-fledged members of the front-line combat units of the military as long as they meet the same physical standards as their male colleagues.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat, They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Infantry, Air Force para-jumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men,” said Secretary Carter on Thursday.
Nancy Duff Campbell, founder, and co-president of National Women’s Law Center was pleased with the decision of the Pentagon. According to her, “It’s a thrilling day for women serving in the military—and for women across the country.”
She added that the decision will provide an opportunity for thousands of women to achieve their dreams in the military. She believes that the U.S. military will become stronger for allowing women to assume front-line combat jobs.
Carter says the implementation will take time
Secretary Carter made it clear that the implementation of the new policy for women in the military will take some time citing the reason that they need the training to fill the positions. “Implementation won’t happen overnight,” he said.
According to the Defense Secretary, some of the women in the military already went schooling and three already passed the tough Army Ranger course earlier this year.
Secretary Carter explained that the Pentagon wants to achieve a critical number of women (still unspecified) before introducing them to join the previously all-male units. A senior Army officer noted that 50% of incoming male recruits wanted to join the infantry while only 10% of female recruits expressed the same interest.
Marines opposes allowing women in front-line combat
In October, the Army recommended to Carter that women should be allowed to serve in all combat position, but the Marines opposed the idea. The Marines were against the idea of allowing openly gay men and women to join the military citing the reason that it would hurt more and recruitment, which did not happen since the lifting of the ban.
An internal study conducted by the Marines indicated that it is “prescription failure” to move forward in expanding opportunities for women service members without giving consideration to the timeless brutal, physical, and unforgiving nature of close combat.
“Those who choose to turn a blind eye to those immutable realities do so at the expense of our Corps’ warfighting capability and, in turn, the security of the nation,” according to the Marine study.
Retired Marine Lieutenant Gregory Newbold said physical strength is only a part of the equation for combat. According to him, “It’s the fighting power of the unit that’s more relevant, and when you interject things that are corrosive; then you degrade fighting power. It’s the sexual dynamic that’s important here—somebody has to get up early to clean the urinals and pick up trash, and Johnny says `Well Suzy isn’t doing it because they like Suzy,’ or Suzy says `I’m doing it because they hate me.’ That’s human nature, and it’s corrosive in small combat units.”
The Marine study disputed Newbold’s opinion. The study concluded that good training and solid leadership can mitigate any initial detrimental effects on cohesion.