Washington, D.C. — Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta plans to announce today his decision to lift the ban on women serving in military combat roles, reports state.
Panetta’s decision was influenced by the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and according to the Washington Post, was meant in part to bring about a “fully inclusive military.”
While women have been able to serve in military support roles in various capacities, since 1994, they have been prohibited from being assigned to front-line ground combat. According to reports, the Army and Marines, which make up most of the ground forces, have until May to come up with a plan to accommodate women for the positions. However, the Defense Department will also grant the nation’s armed forces until January 2016 to seek any types of waivers in the matter, explaining why they believe that some positions should only be filled by men.
Reaction to the news has been mixed among women, with many cheering for equality in the military, while others don’t necessarily desire to be on the front lines of battle.
“This is monumental,” stated Anu Bhagwati, the executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, who served as a former Marine captain. “Every time equality is recognized and meritocracy is enforced, it helps everyone, and it will help professionalize the force.”
Retired Chief Master Sergeant Cindy McNally told reporters that she believes the move could help cut down on sexual assault in the armed forces, of which she was once a victim.
“For larger solutions, we need to look at integrating women completely into the armed force,” she explained. “Remove the combat exclusion policy. Then, we will be a fully integrated force. Being able to do the job should be the standard, not whether you are male or female. I believe that, as leaders, we took our eye off the ball. We enabled a climate where our troops became vulnerable.”
However, an anonymous Army officer that spoke with ABC News told the outlet that while she believes the government is trying to demonstrate its desire to be “progressive” in society, some women really don’t welcome the change.
“[E]very female troop I know says publicly, ‘Sure, open them up!’ And privately, ‘But not for me personally. I know I don’t have the brute strength required and I would be crushed to let down my colleagues. So, no way, no thanks,'” she advised.
The question of whether women may be drafted in the future as a result of the decision is also generating discussion at this time and remains unanswered.
Some Christians state that the concept of women serving in the military is unBiblical.
“[I]t is Biblically impermissible and a profound judgment upon our nation for men to abdicate their role as protectors and warriors by permitting and perpetuating the practice of women in the military,” writes Vision Forum Ministries on its website, which features a number of articles about the issue from a variety of authors.
“What are we to think of a culture that openly welcomes our mothers and daughters being assigned to the heat of battle to have their limbs severed, their faces scarred, and their consciences seared as they lie beneath a flag-covered casket? Does this ‘enlightened policy’ represent the fullest expression of woman as feminists would have us believe?” asks Wesley Strackbein on behalf of the ministry. “Not hardly. It represents an abolition of womanhood and the perversion of God’s design. It represents a deeply-rooted rebellion against the natural roles and functions by which God has distinguished manhood from womanhood.”
Panetta’s announcement is expected to open up over 230,000 battlefront positions to women. Estimates state that approximately 14 percent of the 1.4 million Americans on active duty are women, many of which were deployed to serve during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, or other recent military operations.