By Jeanette Steele
The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Taking a historic and controversial step, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced Thursday that all U.S. military jobs will open to women, including combat roles formerly reserved for men.
That opens the door to not only infantry slots but also the elite Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces.
“Our force of the future must continue to benefit from the best people America has to offer,” Carter said, announcing his decision at the Pentagon.
“In the 21st century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent. This includes women.”
April 1st is the deadline for military branches to begin integration.
Carter acknowledged that the Marine Corps commandant asked for exceptions for roles including infantry, machine gunner and reconnaissance — the only service to do this.
A multiyear Marine Corps study determined that women were injured more often while attempting combat jobs. Also, fighting teams that included women were less effective than all-male teams.
Carter said he considered the arguments of the Marine Corps, but, “I came to a different conclusion. … I believe that we could in implementation address the issues that were raised,” though he didn’t elaborate about how.
“There will be no exceptions. This means that 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.
Asked by reporters why Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford — the then-commandant of the Marine Corps and now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — was not present at the press conference, Carter said, “I was the one who took this position. I’m announcing my decision.”
But the defense secretary added that Dunford “will be with me” as the process moves forward.
Later, the leader of U.S. Special Operations Command — which oversees the Coronado-based Navy SEALs and other select units — released a video statement to his troops explaining why he supported the move to include women.