A new Pentagon policy opens 14,000 - mostly Army - combat-related jobs to women. Overall, the new rules will open up about 5 percent of the roughly 250,000 jobs that have been closed to women.
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Expanding Military Jobs for Women

A new Pentagon policy opens 14,000 - mostly Army - combat-related jobs to women. Overall, the new rules will open up about 5 percent of the roughly 250,000 jobs that have been closed to women.

The Army will be opening six enlisted occupational specialties to women, including artillery mechanic, and maintainers for the Abrams tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle

Some call the new policy a "baby step" that merely aligns policy with reality without significantly advancing equality among men and women within the ranks. About 30 percent of Army jobs will still remain restricted to men.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "believes this is the beginning, not the end of the process," of the process of creating equality for women in the military.

The promise is for branches to continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened to women.

Shortly after he became chief of staff, Odierno reviewed the Army's planned contribution to the Pentagon plan and decided it didn't go far enough.

Odierno told Army Times, "I don't think it represents some of the things that our women are doing in combat...we have incredibly talented females who should be in those positions. We have work to do within the [Defense Department] to get them to recognize and change."

Congress in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act required the defense and service secretaries to review policies "to determine whether changes are needed to ensure that female members have an equitable opportunity to compete and excel in the armed forces."

Still, many restrictions remain in place.

Though the new policy fails to open combat specialties to women, it does take preparatory steps that seem to point in that direction. For example, the Army and Marine Corps in coming months will work on developing "gender neutral" physical standards for individual jobs and career fields, officials said.

For now, the biggest change will be the elimination of the 1994 ban on women serving in units that "co-locate" with direct ground combat forces, which is defined as those "engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew-served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with hostile personnel."

A prohibition on women serving with combat units "below the brigade level" also was revised to allow women to serve "at the battalion level" in "select occupational specialties." That means women can serve on some battalion staff jobs, such as personnel or intelligence officer, but cannot assume roles that would require company command of an infantry unit.

Is it time for the [Defense] Department to eliminate the exclusion policy and open up all military positions and assignments to women?

Several other restrictions will remain. The individual service secretaries will retain authority to restrict women from jobs in the special operations units, jobs that are deemed "physically demanding," and assignment to units where "berthing and privacy" accommodations are not feasible.

Further changes may be on the horizon but will require more study, a report says.


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