The New Formal Roles for Women in Combat

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The Pentagon opened the door for women to serve in combat Thursday, allowing females to serve in thousands of military jobs that inch them closer, if not directly on, the front lines.

The new rules, slated to go in effect this summer, will open up about 14,000 additional jobs to women and reflect the realities of asymmetrical warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan where there are few "safe jobs." In some cases, the Pentagon is simply lifting restrictions on jobs women have already been doing. As ABC News explains, "Typically, these jobs have been made available at the combat brigade level, but not at the lower battalion level, which was deemed too close to combat situation."  Here are some of the positions now formally available to women:

Police, Communication officers

As the Associated Press explains, "new rules will formally allow women to be assigned to a battalion and serve in jobs such as medics, intelligence officers, police or communications officers" that are closer to the front lines. More than 255,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. A total of 145 have been killed from gunfire and roadside bombs. 



Though there are already female medics, the battalions women will be able to serve on are almost sure to place them on the front lines of battle. 

In the picture to the right, an Army flight medic, Jaime Adame, looks after a seriously wounded Marine in the aftermath of an insurgent attack in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.


Field surgeons 

According to CNN, women will be formally allowed to serve as field surgeons in forward deployed brigade combat teams. The Pentagon says more than 860 women have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

To the right, M.A.S.H. surgeons operate on a 20-year-old woman with a broken leg in a field hospital in Pakistan.


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Radio operators

The new rules will also place female radio operators close to the front lines. However, as the AP notes, "In reality ... the necessities of war have already propelled women to the front lines," given that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make soliders almost anywhere targets. Previously, "while a woman couldn't be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion or in a company going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured."

In the photo to the right, U.S. soldiers talk on their radios during an operation in the Ada Ghair mountains in Afghanistan. 


Tank and artillery mechanics

Tank and artillery mechanics on forward deployed combat teams are new positions for women soldiers, according to CNN. As the network explains, the origin of the rules stems from a 1994 policy where "women are restricted from formally serving in small ground units directly involved in combat."

The network notes that "Over the last several years, advocates as well as some senior U.S. military commanders have increasingly called for more ground combat jobs to be open to women."

Missile launcher crew members

Positions as missile launcher crew members will aslo be made available to women in certain battalions. In the image to the right, "A U.S. Army soldier aims a Stinger missile launcher during an annual military exercise in Paju, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Seoul, South Korea."


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.