The Pentagon moves closer to allowing women into combat roles
For the past decade women in the U.S. military have served, fought and died on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Pentagon rules will catch up a bit with reality, recommending to Congress that women be allowed to serve in more jobs closer to the front lines.
According to defense officials, the new rules are expected to continue the long-held prohibition that prevents women from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces. But they will formally allow women to serve in other jobs at the battalion level, which until now had been considered too close to combat.
In reality, however, the necessity of war has already propelled women to the front lines — often as medics, military police or intelligence officers. So, while they couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion or company going out on patrol, they could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.
A 1994 combat exclusion policy bans women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops, and is made up of battalions, which can be about 800 soldiers.
So while a woman serving as a communications or intelligence officer can be formally assigned to a brigade, she can’t be assigned to the smaller battalion. The military has gotten around those rules by “attaching” women in those jobs to battalions, which meant they could do the work, but not get the credit for being in combat arms.