Ever since the United States began to engage in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lines that once prohibited women soldiers from combat roles have blurred. Now, Ash Carter, secretary of defense, has made the long-awaited move of opening all combat roles for women.
It’s an overdue and appropriate step. Women in the military have already demonstrated they are capable of fulfilling the role of combat soldier. Many lost their lives or limbs serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Army, Navy and Air Force have been moving in this direction for some time. The Marines have held out. The Marine Corps is 93 percent male with a focus on infantry and segregates troops by gender for training.
But in issuing the directive to open all those combat roles, Carter resisted a plea for an exception from the Marines. Carter said the military must operate under a common set of standards, and he is right. The Marines will adapt.
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Building the best fighting force, he said, “requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent.” That means not excluding half the population.
This action also means that the upper ranks of the military are likely to see more women. One of the factors that has long been crucial to promotion has been combat experience.