Defense Department Rescinds Direct Combat Exclusion Rule; Services to Expand Integration of Women into Previously Restricted Occupations and Units (January 24, 2013)

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shake hands after signing a memo to lift the ban on women in the military from serving in combat roles as they address the media in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room Jan. 24, 2013. (DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)

Defense Department Rescinds Direct Combat Exclusion Rule; Services to Expand Integration of Women into Previously Restricted Occupations and Units

Today, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey announced the rescission the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women and that the Department of Defense plans to remove gender-based barriers to service.  

“Women have shown great courage and sacrifice on and off the battlefield, contributed in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission and proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles,” Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said. “The Department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.”  

Today, women make up approximately 15 percent, or nearly 202,400, of the U.S. military’s 1.4 million active personnel.  Over the course of the past decade, more than 280,000 women have deployed in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Today’s announcement follows an extensive review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who unanimously concluded that now is the time to move forward with the full intent to integrate women into occupational fields to the maximum extent possible.  It builds on a February 2012 decision to open more than 14,000 additional positions to women by rescinding the co-location restriction and allowing women to be assigned to select positions in ground combat units at the battalion level. 

“The Joint Chiefs share common cause on the need to start doing this now and to doing this right.  We are committed to a purposeful and principled approach,” said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

The Department of Defense is determined to successfully integrate women into the remaining restricted occupational fields within our military, while adhering to the following guiding principles developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff: 

            •           Ensuring the success of our nation’s warfighting forces by preserving unit readiness, cohesion, and morale. 

            •           Ensuring all service men and women are given the opportunity to succeed and are set up for success with viable career paths. 

            •           Retaining the trust and confidence of the American people to defend this nation by promoting policies that maintain the best quality and most qualified people. 

            •           Validating occupational performance standards, both physical and mental, for all military occupational specialties (MOS), specifically those that remain closed to women.  Eligibility for training and development within designated occupational fields should consist of qualitative and quantifiable standards reflecting the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for each occupation.  For occupational specialties open to women, the occupational performance standards must be gender-neutral as required by Public Law 103-160, Section 542 (1993). 

            •           Ensuring that a sufficient cadre of midgrade/senior women enlisted and officers are assigned to commands at the point of introduction to ensure success in the long run.  This may require an adjustment to recruiting efforts, assignment processes, and personnel policies.  Assimilation of women into heretofore “closed units” will be informed by continual in-stride assessments and pilot efforts. 

Using these guiding principles, positions will be opened to women following service reviews and the congressional notification procedures established by law.  Secretary Panetta directed the military departments to submit detailed plans by May 15, 2013, for the implementation of this change, and to move ahead expeditiously to integrate women into previously closed positions.  The secretary’s direction is for this process to be complete by Jan. 1, 2016.  

In the News:

Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war. –Associated Press (January 23, 2013)
US military to allow women on the frontline –Al Jazeera (January 23, 2013)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced that newly re-inaugurated President Obama will allow women to serve in frontline combat roles in the United States military going forward. Appeals for certain units to be excluded from the order to allow females to join men in combat must be resolved by January 2016. –The Daily Conversation (January 23, 2013)
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta decided to lift the ban on women in the military serving in combat, opening thousands of front line jobs to women and reversing the 1994 policy that kept them out of those positions. Gwen Ifill talks with James Kitfield of National Journal about the historic change and implications. –PBS NewsHour (January 23, 2013)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a historic change Wednesday, allowing women to serve in military combat positions. Ret. Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, talks to Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell about the historic policy shift. –CBS News (January 24, 2013)
The US military officially dropped its ban on women serving in ground combat Thursday after a policy review by top commanders, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. –AFP News Agency (January 24, 2013)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in lifting a ban on women serving in combat, said women have become integral to the military’s success and have shown they are willing to fight and die alongside their male counterparts. –Associated Press (January 24, 2013)
ABC’s Cecilia Vega shows you what it takes to be a woman on the front lines. –ABC News (January 24, 2013)

Related Links:
AP Sources: Panetta Opens Combat Roles to Women
US military to allow women on the frontline
American Women Will Serve In Combat, Says Obama
Secretary Panetta Lifts Military Ban on Women in Combat
Gen. Myers: Can’t change training to accommodate women
US officially lifts ban on women in combat: Panetta
Panetta: Women Integral to Military’s Success
Sister Soldiers: Women Ready for Frontline Combat?
Defense Department Expands Women’s Combat Role
Defense Department Rescinds Direct Combat Exclusion Rule; Services to Expand Integration of Women into Previously Restricted Occupations and Units

Department of Defense: Statement of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Accident in Vietnam (April 7, 2001)

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Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld today released the following statement (April 7, 2001):

“Americans are saddened by today’s tragic loss of life of both U.S. and Vietnamese service personnel in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Those of us in the Department of Defense, and the families of our missing, are keenly aware of the dedication of both the American and Vietnamese team members who were, on this very day, searching for servicemen who have been missing in action since the end of the war.” 

Read more from the Department of Defense here.

7 Americans, 9 Vietnamese Die in Viet Helo Crash (April 10, 2001):

“The Americans killed in the crash were identified as Army Lt. Col. Rennie M. Cory Jr., commander, Detachment 2, Joint Task Force-Full Accounting; Army Lt. Col. George D. Martin III, incoming commander; Air Force Maj. Charles E. Lewis, deputy commander; Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommy J. Murphy, mortuary affairs team sergeant, Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii; Navy Chief Petty Officer Pedro J. Gonzales, corpsman; and Air Force Master Sgt. Steven L. Moser and Tech. Sgt. Robert M. Flynn, linguists. U.S. Pacific Command officials in Hawaii released the names April 9 at 7 p.m. The Vietnamese dead include the three-member crew and four aircraft technicians. Also killed were two members of the Vietnamese agency that assists U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Task Force-Full Accounting in its investigation and recovery efforts.”

Read more from the Department of Defense here.

“A Pacific Command investigation into an April 7 helicopter crash that killed seven U.S. servicemen in Vietnam found that deteriorating weather conditions, poor visibility and the Vietnamese pilot’s failure to “properly react” to those conditions were predominant factors in the accident.” –Honolulu Advertiser (October 17, 2001)

Related Links:
Statement of Secretary Rumsfeld on Accident in Vietnam (April 7, 2001)
7 Americans, 9 Vietnamese Die in Viet Helo Crash (April 10, 2001)
US officials mourn Vietnamese helicopter crash victims
U.S. Releases Names of Those Killed in Vietnam Crash
Army, Air Force identify dead in Vietnam crash
Hawaii residents among dead in Vietnam chopper crash
Bodies of 7 returned from Vietnam
Remains of 7 MIA Hunters Return to U.S.
Vietnam crash brings pain to the isle
Never Forgotten: Accounting for American MIAs
Fayetteville Soldier Killed In Helicopter Crash In Vietnam
Virtual Vietnam Veterans In Memory Honor Roll | Rennie Melville Cory Jr.
In Memory of Lt. Col. Rennie Cory Jr
The Bone Collectors | Newsweek
Honoring JTF-FA Heroes
Poor visibility, pilot blamed in Vietnam copter crash
Gone but Never Forgotten