Syed Jan Sabawoon/EPA
Women will soon be allowed to serve in all combat roles in the United States military, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced today.The military branches will have until January 1, 2016, to begin putting plans in place to open combat roles to female members of the military, and will have to begin implementing the plans by April 1, according to the report.The decision follows years of studies by the military about whether women were fit for combat roles. Earlier this year, the Army recommended the change, while the Marine Corps asked Carter to keep some roles limited to male troops.
"Like our outstanding force of today, the force of the future must continue to benefit from the best people America has to offer, and in the 21st century that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent. This includes women," Carter said during the briefing today.About 10 percent of today's military roles are currently closed to women, he said. After the plans are implemented, about 220,000 additional jobs will be open to female troops.Related: The First US Women in Combat Will Find US Women Already in Combat"This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before," Carter said.Women in the military will now be able to drive tanks, join the Green Berets and Navy Seals, and serve as parajumpers, among other positions, he said.The decision took about three years from when it was first initiated, and included surveys and studies of combat effectiveness in each of the branches of the military as well as recommendations from all of the heads of the branches. All recommended that women be allowed to serve in all combat roles, except for the Marine Corps, which requested exemptions for certain roles like machine gunnery and infantry, Carter said.Ultimately, though, he felt that the branches are primarily a "joint force," and that the standards must be the same across the entire force. He said the decision must be implemented carefully if it is going to succeed."Leaders must assign tasks throughout the force based on ability and not gender," he said. "Thus far we've only seen small number of women qualified to fill combat roles."