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Hagel plans to allow women access to combat roles

Charles Zuckerman

Friday, June 21, 2013, 1:37:56 PM
Within the next two years, women will be able to train in most combat roles.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently ordered that plans be made to secure women the opportunity to train in high-level combat positions for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, according to a document acquired by The Associated Press. The plan dictates that both men and women be held to the same physical and mental parameters in order to qualify, the only change being that women may now vie for these roles just as men do. The primary motivation for this move is unclear, and it remains to be seen whether this shift will meet significant resistance.

Of note, however, are Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey's comments made earlier this year, according to the AP. He claimed that the rampant sexual misconduct in the military is, in part, systematically encouraged by the obviously unequal opportunities for women. Though it is all but certain that there is more to this issue, Dempsey is likely correct in that even if the disparity hasn't been the direct catalyst, it could only have been detrimental.

Opening combat roles to women is something military brass has historically resisted, but equal opportunity has prevailed in a plan that hopes to diversify the lower ranks as well as high-level leadership positions. Since the standard held for soldiers will remain unchanged, the hope is that this shift will go smoothly. As long as everyone is completing the same testing and training on all levels, it should allow for women to be properly trained to handle certain situations they have already encountered on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adrienne Brammer is a former Air Force videographer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was often asked to accompany infantry units on the ground. In an interview with NBCNews, she said that she was often scared while traveling with soldiers liable to be attacked at any time. Without more than very basic training, Brammer was far from prepared for resisting fire but was forced to carry on with the mission regardless.

"I'm excited that [women will be] in the books, on paper, under contract, as doing the combat jobs that we've been doing for decades," said Brammer, hopeful that this means others will not be shoved into the situations she has encountered.

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