(WASHINGTON) — In a historic decision, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has opened up all military combat jobs to women ending a decades-long ban on women serving in front-line units. Carter has given the military services until Jan. 1 to present a timeline for implementing the historic change by April 1.
Carter’s decision overrides a recommendation made by the Marine Corps that women should continue not being allowed to serve in its infantry units. After lengthy reviews, the Army, Navy, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command had recommended that women should be allowed to serve in all combat units.
In January 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a timetable for the military services to submit plans for how they would lift restrictions in place since 1994 that banned women from serving in combat units. The services provided plans for reviews and evaluations to determine how that could be done. A target date of January 2016 was established for the Defense Secretary to decide on whether to grant the services exemptions for specific combat jobs that should not be opened to women.
Some of the most high-profile evaluations were carried out by the Army that, for the first time, allowed women to try out for the elite Ranger School. Three female soldiers successfully completed the course leading the Army to quickly decide that it would no longer ban women from competing to earn the Ranger tab.
Since Panetta’s decision, the military services have opened up job specialties formerly restricted to women that add up to 111,000 jobs now available for female service members, according to the Pentagon.
Obama praised the move in a statement, saying that it would “make our military even stronger.”
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