The outgoing defense secretary is lifting the ban on women in combat roles, thus expanding and formalizing the reality that women already fight on the front-lines:
Women currently serve in a number of combat positions, including piloting warplanes or serving on ships in combat areas. Since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 292,000 women have served in those combat zones out of a total of almost 2.5 million, Pentagon records show. In both wars, 152 women have died from combat or noncombat causes, records show, and 958 have been wounded in action.
Milblogger C. Blake Powers applauds Panetta, noting that the “efforts to restrict or remove them when someone suddenly realized that there was no rear area have cost time, money, and sometimes even blood needlessly.” Ackerman connects the big news with the DADT repeal:
Reminiscent of the drawn-out effort to remove the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly, the different military services will have a long time to open their most dangerous tasks to women. Initial plans from the services for implementing the repeal are due on May 15. Reportedly, the services have until January 2016 to seek exemptions for positions they believe should remain closed to women. Still, as CNN notes, eliminating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” might have taken a long time, but when it ultimately ended in mid-2011, it happened all at once, with all military positions open to out gays and lesbians.
The Pentagon official who leaked the news made that connection explicit:
It’s likely to have the same effect as the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the policy that allowed gays and lesbians to serve but required them to hide their sexuality. “The effect of that?” the official said. “A big zero.”
Previous Dish coverage of women in combat here.
(Photo: Female Marine Corps recruits listen to instruction during hand-to-hand combat training at the United States Marine Corps recruit depot on June 23, 2004 in Parris Island, South Carolina. By Scott Olson/Getty Images)