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Officials Reveal Plans to Incorporate Women into Combat Roles



Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 2, defense leaders explained plans to integrate women into all ground combat roles without lowering physical or performance standards.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Acting Undersecretary of the Army Patrick J. Murphy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller updated the committee. All agreed opening combat military occupational specialties (MOSs) to women is the right path for the future.

“We have the responsibility to do the right thing, but we also have an equal responsibility to do the right thing in the right way …”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Dec. 3, 2015, that all military services would open combat jobs to women, including the Marine Corps, which had asked for the gender-restrictions to remain on some combat arms positions.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were directed in January 2013 to set into motion the process to integrate all combat positions – approximately 237,000 positions – to females by 2016.

Ash Carter women in combat

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces his Women in Service Review during a press brief at the Pentagon, Dec. 3, 2015. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

“We have the responsibility to do the right thing, but we also have an equal responsibility to do the right thing in the right way,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee’s chairman. “That is what this hearing is about – ensuring that as women move into more and more positions across our military, readiness, combat effectiveness and the safety and well-being of all service members – both men and women – remain our paramount priority.”

Mabus said because the integration process includes training and education evaluation at all levels, implementing that policy was a priority. He also rebuked the “suggestion” that the Marine Corps would lower its standards to meet quotas, and stressed it’s “an unacceptable notion” for all Marines, particularly women who decide to complete for those positions.

“It’s unacceptable under the law, to me, [and] to every other senior leader in the Pentagon,” he said, “because it would endanger not only the safety of Marines, but the safety of our nation.

“Standards can never be lowered for any group or any job. Standards will evolve as threats evolve, but they will evolve for everyone equally.” The Marine Corps also will end its tradition as the only remaining service branch to separate men and women in boot camp.

Army officials told committee members the Army is opening up every job a soldier can hold regardless of gender.

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