Defense Secretary Announces 220,000 U.S. Military Combat Positions Now Open to Women

In a historic and controversial move, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Dec. 3, 2015, that all military combat positions in the United States are being opened to women, with no exceptions. This decision follows the recent graduation of the first two women to finish the U.S. Army’s Ranger School and means that they are now eligible to apply for the Army’s elite special operations force, the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Via Secretary of Defense Ash Carter
Via Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

A Nation Divided

Carter’s announcement opens up about 220,000 jobs previously denied to women, including special operations, infantry, and reconnaissance. While this decision has been met with praise from the White House, the country is by no means in agreement about its viability. A study conducted by the Marine Corps indicates that mixed-gender combat groups are less effective and more likely to be injured than all-male groups. Also, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, has publicly voiced his belief that some combat positions should remain closed to women.

Via Patrick A. Albright
Via Patrick A. Albright

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Keeping The Same Standards

No existing military requirements will be waived for women, asserts Carter. In August of 2015, this was demonstrated powerfully when U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School graduated its first female attendees, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver. Commanding General of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Maj. Gen. Austin S. Miller made it clear that the two women passed every standard required of the men, a statement backed up by several fellow male graduates. At the time of their graduation, Griest and Hayer were restricted by their gender from entering the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment; however, with Carter’s announcement, the two women are now free to apply for the special operations team.

Via West Point / Sgt. Vincent Fusco
Via West Point / Sgt. Vincent Fusco

Looking Toward the Future

Now that women can apply for all military combat positions the next question is, should “the draft” be opened to women as well? As of December 2015, the White House has released no statement regarding its opinion, but White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, has confirmed they are working with the Defense Department to determine if changes to the draft are needed.The world’s eyes are on the United States now that women can fully participate in the military. With this move, the amount of women serving is likely to increase. This reminds us of the need to ensure they receive the same treatment and benefits as men.

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