Women Can Now Serve In Combat Roles In The U.S. Armed Forces

Photo: Branden Camp/AP Photo.
In a historic press conference today, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that all combat roles will now be open to women.

In January 2013, the Pentagon issued a mandate that would allow women to take on combat roles starting January 1, 2016, or qualify any exceptions. After two years of studies, Secretary Carter determined there should be no exceptions, despite a request from the Marine Corps.

In the press conference, Secretary Carter conceded that on average, men and women have different physical standards, but he put an emphasis on the word "average," pointing out there are women and men who can't meet the tough requirements of the Marines.

He also emphasized that combat effectiveness is key. The U.S. military is a meritocracy, he argued, where the most qualified soldier should get the job, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

There have been some changes in the past few years that make careers in the armed forces more appealing to women. In July, the Navy expanded its maternity leave policy to 18 weeks for women who serve in the Navy and Marine Corps. And in August, two women graduated from the Army Ranger School for the first time in history. With Secretary Carter's announcement, the two female graduates will now be able to apply for the combat roles they qualified for when they graduated.

This change opens more than 10% of military jobs that were once closed to women. In the next decade, we will see women drive tanks and shoot missiles, jump out of planes, and lead covert operations. Secretary Carter expressed his belief that allowing women to take on these roles will only strengthen the U.S. military, and while the change will not be obvious overnight, it will certainly be groundbreaking.

Click here and here for more stories on the huge strides women have been making in the U.S. Armed Forces.

More from Work & Money