Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, upon the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s unanimous recommendation, last week signed the repeal of the combat exclusion policy of 1994, opening more than 200,000 military jobs to women. This was a military decision endorsed by politicians about military readiness, strategic decision-making, and national security.
More than a year ago, the Army chief of staff, General Raymond Odierno, said, “We need their talent. This is about managing talent. We have incredibly talented females who should be in those positions.” This reflected an October 2010 decision by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to open two classes of nuclear submarines to women.
Ground combat is paramount in the Army. The Army selects the majority of its senior leaders from ground combat branches. The 1994 combat exclusion policy prohibited women from serving in such units. This meant its most significant jobs, high command positions (division, corps, and chief of staff), only went to men with combat arms unit experience.