Women will soon be eligible to take on any combat role in the U.S. military. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced on Dec. 3 that “there will be no exceptions,” as long as any applying female meets the rigorous physical requirements of the job (video below).
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat … and everything else that was previously open only to men,” Carter said, according to TIME. “They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
Carter came to this decision after reviewing reports turned in by every department of the military. Data on the effectiveness of women in each combat role were gathered after former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ruled that women could serve in ground combat units in 2013, The Washington Post reports.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not present during Carter’s announcement. Dunford and the defense secretary have publicly disagreed on allowing women to join the Marine Corps infantry.
“[Dunford] will be a full part of implementation,” Carter said, according to The Hill. “My decision is my decision.”
“To move forward in expanding opportunities for our female service members without considering the timeless, brutal, physical and absolutely unforgiving nature of close combat is a prescription for failure,” states a report on an internal Marine study completed in August., according to TIME.
“Those who choose to turn a blind eye to those immutable realities do so at the expense of our Corps’ war-fighting capability and, in turn, the security of the nation.”
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has publicly disagreed with the findings of that study.
"Our process and studies showed that as long as someone can meet operationally relevant, occupation-specific, gender-neutral individual standards, that person is qualified to serve," Mabus said, according to The Hill. "Gender does not define the Service of a United States Sailor or Marine — instead, it is their character, selflessness, and abilities."
Carter said his decision will give the military “access to every American who can add strength to the joint force,” The Hill reports.
“It’s about damn time,” Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, a retired Air Force colonel, said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.
“Women have been fighting and dying for our country since its earliest wars. They have shown they can compete with the best of the best, and succeed. We are a country that looks at people as individuals, not groups. We select the best man for the job, even if it’s a woman.”