Women will now be eligible for all combat jobs in every branch of the armed forces—more than a century after they were first officially allowed to serve in the U.S. Military as nurses.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that, starting in January, women will be allowed to serve in all front-line combat roles, including in infantry units, in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Command. About 10 percent of military positions, or 220,000 jobs, currently remain closed to women, he said.
The U.S. armed forces “cannot afford to cut ourselves off” from half of the U.S. population, he said.
“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, lead infantry soldiers into combat.
“They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers, and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
The policy change may have implications for military drafts, from which female members of the armed forces have been exempt.
“I don’t know how that will turn out,” Carter said in response to a question about the potential for women being required to register for selective service, as most men now do when they turn 18. “It is an issue that’s out there. Unfortunately, it’s subject to litigation.”