Pentagon lifts ban on women in combat

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The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division train on a firing range in September 2012. (Courtesy of AP)

A former U.S. admiral and senior fellow in SMU’s Tower Center says last week’s lifting of the ban against women serving on the front lines of U.S. military now puts the focus “squarely on individual performance.”

While the services, especially special operations forces, will have until January of 2016 to set claim to specific divisions that should remain closed to women, many jobs will open officially to women this year.

According to Walsh, who drew attention to the facts of “women entering the service academies in 1976” and “the first group of tactical fighter pilots in 1993,” the proof to back the argument for women in combat positions has been present for decades.

“Whatever concerns our society has had in the debate over granting women greater access to military occupational specialties have been largely set aside and alleviated by their consistent, demonstrated performance in combat,” Walsh explained.

Many have said that women have long been kept out of official combat positions for questions of physical strength and cohesion within combat units.

However, as women make greater strides each year by producing strong leadership and clear capability with work in the armed forces, the necessity of official recognition and further opportunity has become clearer.

Following the announcement, the question of application and tangibility arose; Walsh said, though, that he did “not see loopholes open with this announcement.”

“I see inconsistencies in policy based largely on gender, clarified,” Walsh answered. “I do not see immediate repercussions of the announcement that would impact the safety or welfare of the armed forces.”

Walsh does “expect a debate about the elite special force units,” such as Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force.

The Pentagon has made clear that tests of strength and ability will be “gender-neutral” and qualification standards will not be adjusted based on sex.

While the expanse of the application of this new ban lift is still in question, it is viewed by many as an inevitable step necessary and warranted to allow women the opportunity to advance role in correlation with their skill and merit.

“I would expect a selected few, women and men, to prove their individual ability in training,” Walsh said.

“[And] to work as a team and carry on the proud traditions of service with honor.” 

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