US Army Chief of Staff General George Casey told the US Senate last week that the Pentagon will reassess the ban on women in the Army's infantry. He said, "I believe that it's time that we take a look at what women are actually doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and look at our policies," reported CNN.
The United States currently restricts women from direct combat roles in infantry positions or in the Special Forces. A 1994 Department of Defense directive banned women from units "whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground," reported CNN. Despite official military policy, women's participation in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has increasingly included direct combat. In contemporary warfare, there are no front lines.
John Nagl, an Iraq veteran and retired lieutenant colonel, told Agence France Presse "my best combat interrogator was a woman soldier, my best tank mechanic was a woman soldier." Army Sergeant Jennifer Hunt, who earned a purple heart in Iraq, told CNN "I do feel like I was in combat...I was engaged by the enemy when they exploded an IUD near my Humvee. You can't hit the pause button and say 'You know, I'm not supposed to be here, you know, don't shoot at me.'"
US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced last week that the United States Navy plans to allow women on submarines for the first time. The policy will go into effect as early as mid-April unless Congress objects during a 30 day waiting period.
Media Resources: CNN 2/26/10; Agence France Presse 2/28/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 8/17/09, 2/24/10