Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that beginning in January 2016, all military occupations and positions will be open to women, without exception.
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For the first time in U.S. military history, as long as they qualify and meet specific standards, the secretary said women will be able to contribute to the Defense Department mission with no barriers at all in their way.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat," Carter added.
"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."
Even more importantly, he said, the military services will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer.
Despite real progress in recent decades and lately, opening more than 111,000 positions to women across the services, Carter said that about 10 percent of military positions - nearly 220,000 total - have remained closed to women.
These included infantry, armor, reconnaissance, and some special operations units, the secretary said.
Over the past three years, he added, senior civilian and military leaders across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command have studied the integration of women into these positions.
“Last month I received their recommendations [and] the data, studies and surveys on which they were based regarding whether any of those remaining positions warrant a continued exemption from being opened to women,” Carter said, noting that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Socom said none of the positions warranted exemptions.
The Marine Corps asked for a partial exemption in areas that included infantry, machine gunner, fire support reconnaissance and others, he added, “[but] we are a joint force and I have decided to make a decision which applies to the entire force.” ■