Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

January 29, 2013

Another View: Women entitled to chance in combat role

Since women have been serving in combat roles for some time now without the official sanction of the U. S. Department of Defense, the announcement Wednesday that more than a quarter-million combat positions will be open to service members regardless of gender means that, finally, women will be able to use their experience to rise through the ranks.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta acknowledged as much in a press conference after the announcement.

When he and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, signed the order they said that women have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for decades.

And in a service that rewards actions on the battlefield above all other reasons, the lack of official sanction has hindered the careers of many women.

The ruling was greeted with nearly universal approval. Even Gen. Colin Powell, at Central Michigan University Thursday, acknowledged that it was time for the move.

In today's military, about 14 percent are women and more than 280,000 have been sent into Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations in support of combat troops and many of them have found themselves in harm's way — 152 have been killed and more than 800 wounded.

Although the move fits the liberal agenda of President Barack Obama concerning matters of women and equal opportunity, the New York Times has reported that the change was brought by the military itself, where women have pushed the military brass to acknowledge the reality on the ground.

The announcement overturns a 1994 ruling that prohibits women in infantry, armor and artillery roles.

Each branch of the military will have to come up with a plan for implementing the new rules, and the joint chiefs said women will have to meet the same tough standards as men to enter into the roles.

"I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability and qualifications and on performance," Panetta said at a Pentagon news conference.

"Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance." We agree.

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