A year after opening some combat positions to women, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta thinks the fairer sex is ready for anything war can throw at them.
According to the Associated Press, an unnamed source revealed late Wednesday that Panetta plans to announce on Thursday his revocation of the military ban on women in combat.
President Obama’s defense secretary reportedly plans to give the military services until 2016 to seek special exceptions for any positions for which female soldiers would not be fit. Military chiefs must report on their initial implementation plans by May 15.
Last year’s slight relaxing of the ban opened about 14,500 combat positions to women. Thursday’s decision will open 230,000 positions to female troops, including assignments in elite combat units and Army and Marine infantry units.
Women will be able to apply for some positions as early as this year. Getting approved for Navy SEALS or the Army’s Delta Force may take longer.
Women currently make up about 14 percent of the military’s 1.4 million active personnel. During the last 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, women have served as medics, military police, and intelligence officers, sometimes attached but not formally assigned to front-line units.
Although armies from other nations, most notably the Israeli Defense Forces, allow women to serve in combat roles, American military leaders have long maintained women should stay away from the thick of battle. Evangelical leaders support that stance, saying God didn’t wire women to be warriors.
In a 2007 column for WORLD, pastor and author John Piper said no woman should ever go before a man into a fight: “A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he's a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.”