Washington, D.C. January 24, 2013 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are expected to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military, a senior defense official said today. The policy change will begin a process in which the services will develop plans to implement the decision, which was made by Panetta upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the official said.
The change is long overdue, according to Lt. Col. Sherry DeVries, a retired member of the United States Marine Corps Reserve and president of the Alliance for National Defense, an Alexandria, Va.,-based group that advocates for women’s rights in the military.
“In a war without frontlines, the previous policy created a distinction without a difference exposing military women to all the dangers of direct combat without crediting the female troops for their time in harm’s way,” DeVries said. “The old policy actually exposed women troops to additional danger: women work alongside male troops in combat units during the day and then are transported – often over dangerous routes –to an allegedly non-combat unit to sleep before covering the same dangerous road again in the morning.
“Women are in combat; they currently serve in Afghanistan and had been in combat in Iraq. The chain of command has finally recognized reality.”