The Department of Defense is expected to release a report on Thursday urging Congress to let women serve in more frontline combat-related jobs, signaling a possible death knell for male-only military units.
The recommendations are part of a department-wide "Women in Service" review that was scheduled to be released last April but has been held up for nearly a year by DOD officials. Military representatives will hold a Pentagon press conference Thursday afternoon to announce the changes.
Although the new rules aren't expected to allow women into all combat roles currently held by men, such as infantry, artillery, and special operations, they will certainly boost the case for full equality in the ranks. According to DOD officials who have briefed journalists on the report, it will recommend that women be allowed to fill essential non-combat roles—medics, cops, intelligence and communications specialists—in small frontline combat units where they were previously forbidden.
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That raises the question: If a woman is supporting critical missions alongside an infantryman, and is armed with the same service rifle, and goes the same places and takes the same risks as the infantryman, shouldn't she be allowed to join the infantry? The distinction looks more and more arbitrary—a point Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's top general and former Iraq War commander, made last autumn when he called the report pointless. "I think it doesn't represent some of the things that our women are [already] doing in combat," he told Military Times:
Specifically, it has to do with jobs that put them down into our maneuver battalions, such as intelligence officers, signal officers, other specialties that now are not allowed to be in combat battalions. We need them there. We need their talent. This is about managing talent. We have incredibly talented females who should be in those positions.
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