BREAKING NEWS: Pentagon Chief Panetta to Remove Ban on Women in Combat

Panetta’s decision overturns a 1994 rule and opens up thousands of front-line positions for women.

The Associated Press reports senior defense officials have said Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has decided to remove the military ban on women serving on the front lines in combat situations. This decision,

[Opens] hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

This groundbreaking decision, which was recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will overturn a 1994 rule that banned women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta has given all branches of the Armed Forces until January 2016 to request special exceptions for specific positions they feel should remain closed to women.


What do you think? Should women be on the front lines of combat? If so, should women have to register with Selective Service for the draft at age 18, as men do?

Photo: AP/File

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  1. Lets all enjoy our little gendernormative feel good games. The reality is that the bad guys don’t play by those rules. Put too many women in front line units and sooner or later a significant number of them are going to get captured. Then guess what, you get to have 24/7 live streaming access to sexual abuse. Middle eastern or African warlords will make the circumstances you all like to call the rape culture a true long term reality. They will use abuse of female detainees to break down male detainees, They will use gender to extract information, disrupt prisoner unity, and make a hellish situation orders of magnitude worse. I think this little equality exercise will cost our nation greatly, in many ways, in the long run.

    • Only if we cling to outdated notions of chivalry and woman-protection that should have been abandoned decades ago.

      Yes, the bad guys will torture our female soldiers. They already torture our male soldiers; what’s the difference? In an egalitarian society, the answer is “none.”

      • Unfortunately,19 and 20 year old POWs won’t be residing in your mythical egalitarian prison camp.

        There comes a point when reality has to take a seat in front of the way we wish things were, and in my opinion this is just such a time.

        I’m all for equality of opportunity in all but the most drastic of cases, but Geneva Convention, much less egalitarianism, simply does not apply to any opponent we have faced since WWII. I hope American is ready to handle seeing their daughters (and sons) being abused via YouTube. Adding significant male/female integration into this situation will result in more prisoner deaths, suicides, and abuse.

        The incremental tick up in the egalitarian policy wish list is just not worth it.

        • So, you’re saying that you’re OK with our male soldiers being tortured… but allowing it to happen to our female soldiers is suddenly a problem?

          • No, I’m not trying to imply that its OK to torture male POWs. What I’m saying is that female POWs will be subjected to sexual as well as physical abuse at a much greater rate than male prisoners. Male POWs will move to physically intervene on the behalf of these females prisoners being singled out and get killed, where if it were only males prisoners were present all receiving the same abuse a survival attitude would usually prevail. Enemy forces will use the presence of female POWs to extract information and concessions from male POWs, increasing the frequency of suicide among prisoners from the perceived loss of honor and reduces sense of unity among the group.

            Historically the only way a female POW can minimize her sexual abuse is to in effect become a concubine of a senior prison official. Garnering that sort of favor (if you can all it that) would also break down unity of resistance and make the whole situation worse.

            That’s not to say it will never happen this way without the change in policy but putting large numbers of females into front line units almost ensures it happening in instances where even a few troops are captured where it is an extremely rare event to date.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        Since the end of WW II, the most important military terrain in the world has been the six inches between the ears of the American voter. Hence the lefties in the peace movement, the fake civilian casualties from American action, or the drooling glee with real civllian casualties for use to impugn the US effort. Or the flat lies….but you know all this.
        The US effort will be in even more danger if we see viral footage of women being tortured than men being tortured. Which puts a premium on torturing women for fun and propaganda.
        Now, if you think no American military action can ever be justified, this is the thing for you. OTOH, if it might be that the bad guys are actually approaching your door, and you decide to put a nineteen-year-old soldier between you and danger, and thus approve of the military action….metaphor. I mean something, somehow, that an enemy of the US doesn’t like might still be something of which you approve could be in even greater risk of being opposed by your friends.
        That said, the bad guys can get American women practically anywhere… missionaries, medical teams, teachers in dicey areas, even tourists. So we don’t actually need women soldiers for this to work. Just sayin’.

        But,, anyway, has anybody here who supports the idea mentioned even in passing the antiquated concept of combat efficiency?

  2. John Anderson says:

    Lat time I checked women suffered only 1/6th the fatalities men suffered based on their relative numbers in the Iraqi theater. From what I remember women made up about 20% of the armed forces, but only 12% of the troops sent into the Iraqi theater. So women were about 10 times less likely to die than men. I’m in favor of the change as long as the physical standards don’t change. I think it opens the door to parity on selective service. Either everyone registers or no one registers.

    Here’s a thought. I wonder what would happen if they had all female units. Would women feel comfortable enough to go into battle if they didn’t have men around them? Would the top brass be confident enough to send them? That would really be the deciding factor for me. Are women so capable that they can replace all the men in the unit? If the answer is no then people are counting on the men to pick up the extra load.

  3. PursuitAce says:

    What? The law hasn’t been changed from male only registration? What are the odds that it will be? I’d give you real good ones that it won’t be. Congress can’t put together a budget, so getting this done…LOL!

    • I don’t think the law would need to change. When the constitutionality of a gender based draft was challenged the supreme court ruled that it was, but it’s ruling said the only reason the gender selectiveness was acceptable under the 14th amendment was that women were not allowed to serve in combat units.

  4. wellokaythen says:

    If most women (or even all women) would fail to pass the qualifications tests for these frontline jobs, then what’s the problem? If they can’t do it, then there’s nothing to get upset about, because they won’t be there. Require physical minimums for being a loader — if a man or woman can’t do it, then that person doesn’t get to be a loader. I don’t see how it would hurt to let more people take the test and fail.

    Unless people are thinking that the U.S. military would put people in combat roles who couldn’t handle those roles. If that’s the fear, then I wonder why there’s so little mention of it when it’s just men assigned those roles. Perhaps people are thinking that it’s okay to put men into dangerous jobs they can’t handle, but totally different to put women in jobs they can’t handle.

    I’m waiting for the outpouring of wild theories about menstruation and how it totally prevents women from being in combat roles. Apparently no blood is allowed in combat….

    • In the 90’s the US military did a study n found women had a much greater injury rate with the load required for combat troops, something to do with the angle of the knees n pelvis putting great strain on them. There are also concerns that men have too much of a protective instinct towards women and may be jeopardized by trying to protect a woman too much. There’s also the fear of women being raped in combat, and I’m not sure how ready much of the public is to start seeing large numbers of women die like men do in combat.

      Personally I think if they can pass the test then go for it but I do worry mainly about the injury rate, hopefully exoskeletal suits will bypass that issue.

    • Lovely response, wellokaythen. The ban lifting is a matter of semantics; it’s not a mandate that now women MUST fill frontline/combat arms positions. It’s not forcing any woman into a position that she may or may not be able to handle, it’s simply giving her the opportunity to pursue such a position. If she can’t cut it, she can’t cut it, and as others have said, she’d likely be weeded out pretty early on in the process.

      EVEN IF the physical standards are not 100% equal to the standards men face for the same position, they’re still going to be pretty high, I’d imagine? High enough that any woman who passed the standards could be relied on to handle combat. Otherwise, such standards would be meaningless.

      Sure, most men could probably meet and exceed the ‘minimum’ that might be put in place for women, but that’s kind of a good thing. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, as they say, and if everyone in a squad is stronger than the weakest link, and the weakest link has herself proven strong enough to be combat-ready, sounds to me like you have a well-equipped squad, not a huge liability.

    • And in response to your last comment, I’m expecting those arguments too, along with those that argue that a woman’s menstrual/hormonal cycle makes her unstable. I’m also ready for the arguments that having women present in certain conditions and situations is a huge distraction to sex-crazed men and disrupts camaraderie.

  5. So because some women (I’ll even give you most women) wouldn’t physically qualify for a job that MOST MEN are physically unable to qualify for, that means that women should be barred from holding those positions? That really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  6. How “good” can a man be who puts his woman between him and the enemy?

    • wellokaythen says:

      Perhaps about as good as a 40 year old man who puts an 18 year old “man” between himself and the enemy. Or even a male President in his 50’s who puts the 18 year old there in the first place….

    • Hey, chivalry died when equality gained popularity, Josh. Take your white-knight act elsewhere if you can’t handle equality.

      By the way… got any comments on the women who were glad to put MEN between them and the enemy? Are they still good?

  7. I consider myself a pacifist, but if women want to serve, they should have the right.that said, there should be either selective service registration for all or for none, full stop. I’m sure the argument will be that just because some women want to serve doesnt meAn that all women should serve- to which I would say the same should be true for men.

    What’s disheartening is that some say drafting women would make the US think twice about entering wars and potentially sacrificing our daughters. What does that say about our sons?

    • wellokaythen says:

      “What’s disheartening is that some say drafting women would make the US think twice about entering wars and potentially sacrificing our daughters. What does that say about our sons?”

      It’s extremely unlikely that a draft would return, especially since, at least on paper, there are no longer the deferments of the Viet Nam era. No getting out of it by going to college or having a kid or working on a farm, for example. (I think men and women should have the same obligations about Selective Service registration. Either both or neither.)

      There was a similar argument made in the first Gulf War in 1991, that once Americans saw female soldiers (and sailors, marines, etc.) returning in body bags the American public would be so traumatized that it would immediately force the government to stop the war. Once Americans had to face the idea of mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives getting killed, the country would be unable to handle it. Some pacifists were hoping that would be the case. The reality? It was the dog that didn’t bark. Hardly anyone noticed – the flag drapes the same no matter who’s in the coffin.

    • What is says, D, is that the sick and foolish idea “men are disposable, women are valauble” is still with us. And that’s another reason we need the men’s rights movement.

  8. TheBadMan says:

    Women still won’t be complaining about equal representation in combat. All they care about is equal representation in the most privileged and elite occupations.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    Not happening now in fields not combat arms. Can’t happen when the requirements are gender normed.
    See cops and firefighters, for example.

  10. As long as they don’t make a separate rule where women do less work, carry less, etc, everyone pulls their weight then I see no problem.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    Danny, Your caveat about physical standards being the same is wonderful. Everybody presumably wants that, except that it is supremely ingenuous to presume everybody wants that.
    Standards are already gender-normed, in the military, in police and fire departments.
    It’s a fact of life.

  12. Richard Aubrey says:

    One of the times my father was wounded, he was in a hospital near Liege. When the V1s –aka buzzbombs–were going over on the way to Antwerp, the doctrine was that the medical staff would go to the air raid shelters in case one of the things fell short. The non-ambulatory couldn’t go, of course, so they would have extra mattresses piled on them. You have to save the med staff, but you can always get more wounded. They were coming by the trainload.
    A nurse on that ward refused to go to the shelters, and instead stayed there, reading to the guys by flashlight.
    Rather see a woman doing that than straggling behind a rifle platoon, unable to keep up or carry the necessary gear. Which, due to the inevitable gender-norming of requirements, will be the rule rather than the exception.

    • Rather see a woman doing that than straggling behind a rifle platoon, unable to keep up or carry the necessary gear.
      As long as the physical standards stay the same I would hope that a woman (or man for that matter) would be weeded out in basic training. Or least be weeded out before making it to the front lines.

  13. I wholeheartedly approve of this change. When will women be required to register for the draft?

    • PursuitAce says:

      Great point! The last barrier to women for draft registration has been removed. All women 18-25 years of age please register at this time. This includes all permanent resident aliens. Failing to do so can prevent you from receiving federal student financial aid and other benefits. You also could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. I’m proud to be an ally with feminists in this. Peace out….

      Oh, my. That last part probably wasn’t appropriate.

  14. Over the course of human history,women are not unknown in combat. However, the idea that this event marks some watershed moment for equality in America is wwayyy overstated. Get a grip. Until women are drafted into all 4 branches of the armed services and comport themselves with courage and humility on the battlefield, over the course of generations, not much can be said about breaking down barriers to equality. The actual numbers of women who will voluntarily make the choice to fight in combat will remain a fraction of what men commit to do for their country. This is like finding a single grain of sand and saying that one has experienced the beach because of it.

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Ace. Also the laws of physics. Why was Newton a misogynist, anyway?

    Couple of years ago on a law prof blog–Volokh Conspiracy–the subject was discussed in, iirc, five separate posts with lengthy, informed comment threads. Enlightening, especially from guys who’d been in the service recently in units with women.
    I think the comments are archived or disappeared or something, but if you just read the posts, it would be useful. And if you can figure how to dig up the comments, it would be fantastic.

  16. PursuitAce says:

    You’re bringing logic to the table Richard. That dog just won’t hunt. But I do admire your perseverance.

  17. Richard Aubrey says:

    Just for grins. “Redleg” is Army slang for Field Artillery. The guys in the pictures are Marines who use a different term, but the work is the same.

    You have any female friends who could do this? And this is in daylight, nobody shooting at you, full crew no casualties, the gun isn’t bogged down in the mud and they’re not frantically unloading a truckload of rounds and propellent in a blizzard. IOW, this is the easy part.

  18. Richard Aubrey says:

    The Canadian army tried to get enough women qualified for Infantry service without gender norming the physical requirements. Got three dozen and a bunch injured trying to make it. Ended the effort.
    Americans, being enamored of bean-counting, will gender-norm requirements. Count on it. It’s already been done in other areas of military service.
    Then, of course, there’s the orthopedic issue. How many women are you willing to break trying to get those within shouting distance of the necessary physical requirements. Got a friend, who, bless her heart, wanted to be a line medic. Got stress fractures in advanced training. Got a medical discharge.
    Ran into a woman who told us her daughter had maxed a physical fitness test run on the male requirements. Her commander was so pleased that he visited her in the hospital.

    Do the math:
    If we load up everybody for a particular operation to one-half body weight, where are we?
    Men weigh, on average, 180 lbs. Half their weight is 90 lbs. Figure 40 lbs for their personal equipment, armor, water, weapon. Left over is 50 lbs. That’s munitions. Their own ammo, ammo for the crew-served weapons, rocket launchers, grenades, demolition charges, etc.
    A woman, at 130. Half is 65 lbs. Figure 35 lbs for her personal equipment. Left over is 30 lbs of munitions. Difference in this scenario is 20lbs of munitions, iow the stuff with which to kill the other guys. Every time you replace a man with a woman, you lose 20 lbs of munitions which could be critical.
    Try the math at two-thirds of body weight, which is more normal.
    Women have done well. See Leigh Ann Hester, Raven 42, Misty Frazier, Teresa Broadwell, “Combat Barbie”. But none of them have functioned as Infantry. Or Armor, etc. Closest is Hester, who arrived on a vehicle, engaged the enemy, returned to the vehicle for more ammo. First woman to get the Silver Star since Anzio.
    A female Marine captain–whose career is probably over now–said that her experience was that women couldn’t function well enough in the combat arms.
    The first two women to get out of Navy F14 school did so with failing grades. One blew an approach and was killed and the other was grounded for unsafe flying. Thing is–see the movie Top Gun–the F14 is a two-seater. So the Navy took two people who hadn’t done the Navy any harm that we know of and put them to flying with unqualifed pilots. But the Navy was more spooked by Pat Schroeder.
    “equity” has a price.
    Who’s willing that other people pay it?

  19. it is good that the ban has been lifted.
    from what i understand in afghanistan and iraq there was/is no frontline as such, so women soldiers were already engaging in ‘frontline’ combat.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      james. This isn’t about “frontline” combat. It’s about allowing women in the Combat Arms. That is, Infantry, Combat Engineers, Field Artillery, Armor, Cavalry. Being shot at while in a convoy isn’t the same, except for certainly being scared and possibly being dead, as humping a hundred pounds all freaking day in the 100 degree heat, jumping a wall, engaging in a firefight that might end up hand-to-hand, and staying awake all night. For a week or so. Also being certainly scared and possibly dead.
      Simplest job in a tank is loader. If you aren’t possessed of substantial upper body strength, not only can you not do the job, in your efforts you may be in the wrong place when the main gun recoils.
      Cocking a fifty-caliber lying down is preferable to standing up for better leverage. The list is approximately endless.

      • there is also the early 90s brit army medical report, also showed that most women bodies breakdown. one a similar point, in california about 3yrs the women who applied to be firemen couldnt do it because of their lack of upperbody strength and they became injured during the trials. i am familiar with the overview of your argument, the details, of course, come from you being exmilitary.

        ive never understood why there is a male and female physical standard for the same regiment, there should be that has to be attained – the male standard. if the woman can do pass the same tests as the men, then im happy to let them serve, and also draft them to positions appropriate for the skills in most cases. i could see exceptions eg. total wars, where for national survival a nation couldnt afford initially to lose alot of young womeon, and submarines

  20. I’d love less war, less violence, less need for it and way less imperialism in general, but I’m glad for equity.

    • Richard Aubrey says:


      Colin Powell who, having recently slammed republicans is a good guy, said some years ago that we don’t do imperialism. The only ground we ask for, he said, is where we bury our dead.
      It appears from visitors to such hallowed ground that the locals are more than generous with their attention and love for our children.

      • The U.S. has certainly got a bit of an imperial streak. “Manifest destiny,” was nothing but colonialism, for starters. And now we’ve got a cultural/moral attempt at building an empire. Just because we don’t stick a U.S. flag in the ground and claim it as one of the states, doesn’t mean we aren’t behaving like an empire.

        • Richard Aubrey says:

          Actually, Heather, it does. Mickey D’s does not equal the raj.
          Really. Now, you can say that stuff because part of our stuff is not restricting speech. If that spreads, who knows what will happen.

  21. Anonyrssrro says:

    Hooray, women can now murder brown people up close and personal!

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