According to news reports out of Washington, D.C. (see here and here, among others) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce Thursday the Pentagon’s lifting of its ban on women serving in combat roles in some of the most dangerous units in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Per NBC News:
The Pentagon chief will announce on Thursday that he is eliminating the direct ground combat exclusion — the Department of Defense policy that excluded women from assignment to units below the brigade level if the unit would be engaged in direct combat.
This will allow women to be assigned to select positions in ground combat units at the battalion level.
Hawaii’s U.S. House delegation includes freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Gabbard and fellow freshman U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, are the first female combat veterans elected to Congress.
In 2004, Gabbard deployed to Iraq with the 29th Brigade Combat Team and eventually served two tours of combat duty in the Middle East. She issued a statement in support of the Pentagon’s move, which read in part:
“Female service members have contributed on the battlefield as far back as the Civil War, when some disguised themselves as men just to have the opportunity to serve their nation. This decision by the Department of Defense is an overdue, yet welcome change, which I strongly support. I look forward to hearing the details of how this will be executed, and will support full and equal access for our highly capable female service members to serve our country in all roles, which will only stand to strengthen our Armed Forces, and our national defense.”
Hawaii U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, also supported the move.
In a statement, Hanabusa said:
“Throughout our history, women have played an integral role in our military. I applaud the Department of Defense for eliminating this outdated policy and recognizing the important, evolving role of women in the Armed Forces. I believe that all qualified Americans, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should be given the same opportunity to serve their country.”
Update (Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.):
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, also supported the announcement. Her statement on the matter:
“Today’s news is a great step toward equality. These restrictions that block women from serving in active combat roles make no sense in today’s modern military. All Americans deserve the opportunity to defend our nation regardless of gender, and I know that the women who currently serve in the military think they should be treated the same as any other servicemember. Women serving in combat roles will strengthen our national security, and as a member of the Armed Services Committee, I will work closely with military and administration officials to see this change through.”