Lifting ban on women in combat is right call

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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the U.S. military’s ban on women serving in combat last week, but it doesn’t mean this nation will soon lose its first woman in battle.

Sadly, that has already happened. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to jobs in neighboring nations in support of the wars. Of the more than 6,600 U.S. service members who have been killed, 152 have been women.

The rule against women in combat, which was approved in 1994, focuses on smaller ground combat forces. It has been interpreted so women can hold many positions on the front lines that put their lives in danger. These women are highly trained in warfare and can defend themselves (as well as the country) very well.

“The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality,” Panetta said on Thursday in announcing the decision.

Not every woman in the military wants to be a combat solider (nor does every man). But the reality of today’s military is that serving in war zones is key for career military personnel to being promoted.

Women should have the same opportunities as men.

And, just like men, women have to be able to have a level of physical strength and endurance to serve in some combat roles. Currently some men simply can’t meet the requirement. It will be the same for women, as Panetta said the qualifications will not be lowered for women.

U.S. military leaders are well aware it is critical that every soldier or Marine in a combat situation has to be well suited for the job and highly trained. The lives of other soldiers depend on it.

Although Panetta’s decision — which follows a Joint Chiefs of Staff recommendation — is final, there are still some specifics that must be addressed by top military leaders. The most high profile coould be whether women should be allowed to serve in elite combat groups such as the Navy SEALs or the Army’s Delta Force.

Women who want to serve in one of those units and can meet all the standards should not be denied.

As long as the standards are exactly the same for every SEAL or Delta Force member, we don’t see a problem. The standards are incredibly high. Only about 20 percent of those who meet the high standards to even attempt to become SEALs finish the mandatory training.

There is no question that the military has been a man’s world, as 86 percent of those serving are men. But if a woman has a calling to serve in combat and move up through the ranks, allowing her the opportunity is the right thing to do.

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