US to open elite military fighting units to women
Women in the US military will soon be able to serve in elite fighting units, such as the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers, positions previously open only to men, the military said Tuesday, dpa reported.
The US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines released plans to open occupations such as infantry, armour and special operations by 2016.
The US military said in January it would open combat positions to women, ending longstanding automatic exclusions that kept them from most jobs that put them directly in the fight. It had however not yet announced which jobs would be open to women.
"I remain confident that we will retain the trust and confidence of the American people by opening positions to women, while ensuring that all members entering these newly opened positions can meet the standards required to maintain our warfighting capability," Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a memo to the heads of each military branch and others at the Pentagon.
The military is still working out many of the details, including setting gender-neutral physical and mental standards, and the Navy is still weighing whether to allow women to serve on certain ships, such as some submarines, where cramped quarters make it difficult to modify facilities to allow men and women to serve side by side.
The move comes as problems of sexual assault and harassment in the military have garnered greater attention. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said allowing women into more roles might help address the issue by eliminating more gender distinctions in the ranks.
The military last year opened thousands of additional positions for the first time by narrowing rules meant to keep women out of combat. After more than a decade of counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, those changes allowed women to officially take posts that put them closer to combat in an era when battlefields have few clear lines.
The latest development would allow women into positions that involve direct fighting, such as infantry units, but leaves the actual integration up to each branch of the military.