The Pentagon announced that they will be opening up all positions that were previously restricted for women, adding up to 220,000 new jobs for military women in a decision made last Thursday by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter said at the news conference. “They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
The decision was the result of a deadline created by the Obama administration three years ago to integrate women into all combat jobs by January or ask for specific exemptions. “When I became secretary of defense, I made a commitment to building America’s force of the future,” Carter announced. “In the 21st century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent. This includes women.”
One of BC’s ROTC Army Cadets, Caitlin Keenan, CSON ’19, told the Gavel that upon hearing the news she “...was proud of the women who have worked extremely hard over the years to prove that they are just as capable as men.” She added, “I was not aware of the possibility of such a decision prior to the announcement simply because I did not realize that there were so many positions woman weren't allowed to fill.”
Women have long faced combat restrictions, including the ability to fight in the infantry, which is vital to career advancement. However, this August, as United States Army First Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest became the first female graduates of the Army's demanding Ranger School, a major barrier fell.
The decision has seen some resistance, with many opponents citing studies reportedly demonstrating the inefficacy of mixed-gender units.
Gen. Joseph E. Dunford Jr., the former commandant of the Marine Corps, recently named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and vocal opponent of the decision to open all combat jobs to women, released a statement saying “I have had the opportunity to provide my advice on the issue of full integration of women into the armed forces.” He continued, “In the wake of the secretary’s decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented.”
In response to Gen. Joseph E. Dunford Jr., Keenan stated, “I think that women have proved that they can be just as successful as men in these areas. The two women who completed the Ranger Academy are a testament to that. Granted, not all women will be able to meet the standards, but neither will all men.”
As rumors of the announcement spread throughout the military, privately voiced concerns arose as many argued that integration will prove impractical. The defense secretary sought to assuage these concerns by saying that every service member would have to meet the standards of the jobs they wished to fill, and “there must be no quotas or perception thereof.” He added, military leaders are going to be required to assign jobs and tasks and determine who is promoted based on “ability, not gender.”
In regards to any changes in the ROTC program at BC, Keenan stated, “I don't think this decision will affect my duties in ROTC at BC.” She added, “If anything, the standards set for the physical fitness test might be made more similar for men and women, but this would be an army wide decision, not a decision that is BC specific.”
While military women have been facing various leadership restrictions, Keenan commented, “I have not experienced any restrictions in the positions I can take in ROTC at BC. We are allowed to hold all of the same leadership roles as the men are.”
Keenan added, “For the future, I hope that women prove to be a positive addition to combat roles in the military. I hope that one day men and women will truly be seen as equally valuable and that discrepancies over abilities will disappear.”