Late Breaking News
Women Closer to Front Lines, Medical Positions Affected
The DoD’s report also listed Army officer positions newly opened to women at the battalion level, including field surgeon or medical-platoon leader, physician’s assistant and medical-operations officer.
In the past, women served in positions, such as medics, that were “attached” to battalions, but they could not be formerly assigned to a battalion.
For the Navy, the changes “will open 60 medical officer, chaplain, chief hospital corpsman and hospital corpsman first class positions for the assignment of women in Marine Corps ground-combat element battalions. The 60 new Navy positions open to the assignment of women include 18 medical-officer positions, 19 chaplain-officer positions, and 23 chief and petty officer first-class hospital corpsman positions,” according to a written statement.
Opening Positions to Women
While changes in policy were applauded by some, other advocates for women in the military argue that it does not go far enough.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-CA, introduced legislation last year in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to allow qualified female soldiers to fight in combat. At the time the bill was introduced, she said her legislation recognized contributions women already were making on the battlefield. Sanchez noted then that, as of April 1, 2011, 137 female members of the armed forces already had been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, and, of the women killed, over 60 were killed in combat.
According to more recent statistics, nearly 300,000 women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 144 of them have died in the conflicts.
“I strongly encourage the Pentagon to continue taking an even closer look at the combat role our servicewomen in Afghanistan and around the world are already filling successfully,” she said last month in a statement. “As the highest ranking woman on the House Armed Services Committee, I believe these servicewomen deserve our country’s recognition for the combat service they already provide. I urge the Pentagon to repeal its direct combat unit assignment prohibition, and I will continue to fight for this repeal in Congress.”
Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), called the changes a “step in the right direction,” but lamented that women still cannot serve in combat positions.
“This is extremely disappointing.” Bhagwati said in a written statement. “To continue such a ban is to ignore the talents and leadership that women bring to the military, and it further penalizes service women by denying them the opportunity for future promotions and assignments that are primarily given to personnel from combat arms specialties,” a phenomenon that SWAN calls the “Brass Ceiling.”