US opens all military combat jobs to women

Ash Carter (AP)
Ash Carter (AP)

Washington - The US military will open all combat jobs to women, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday, despite objections by the Marine Corps.

Women will now be allowed to serve in about 220 000 positions that had remained closed to them, including infantry, armour, reconnaissance and special operations, he said.

Carter made the decision to open all jobs to women after a review of recommendations from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines following years of study. Only the Marines had asked for an exception to continue excluding women from some jobs, he said.

"As long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before," Carter said.

"They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat," he said. "They'll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men."

The move reflects the need to draw talent from the entire population to best serve the needs of the modern military, Carter said.

Women had already seen combat during the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but had continued to be excluded from certain positions labelled as combat roles.

The military will have 30 days to open the positions and draft plans for how to include women in the force.

Carter expressed confidence that the policy could be implemented successfully and individual members of the military would be judged on their merits, not their gender. There would be no quotas for women to serve in certain roles or units, he said.

Carter said he believed concerns raised by the Marines that allowing women could result in more casualties could be addressed during the implementation of the policy and the military would be best served by integrating all services without exceptions.

The Marine Corps objections had been raised by General Joseph Dunford, who has since been promoted to chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Carter dismissed concerns that Dunford might not support the decision.

"He will be at my side," Carter said. "He understands my decision. My decision is my decision."

The Pentagon announced in 2013 that it would open combat positions to women, and the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines released plans to open occupations such as infantry, armour and special operations by 2016.

The military has since then also been studying how to open elite fighting units, such as the Army Rangers and the Navy SEALS, and weighing whether some positions should continue to exclude women.

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