Military to lift ban on women
End of combat ban will improve culture
The Service Women's Action Network says it is ecstatic about the end of a ban on US servicewomen in combat.
THE US military is to announce the end of a 19-year ban on women in combat, a sweeping change that appears to recognise the reality that female troops have experienced since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, were expected to announce an end to the ban as early as Thursday.
Like the elimination of the ''don't ask, don't tell'' policy prohibiting gay men and women from serving openly, the decision represents a far-reaching reversal of military policy and is emblematic of the changing mores and culture in the American armed services.
About 200,000 women are among the 1.4 million active-duty personnel currently serving in the military.
The decision follows a lawsuit filed in November challenging the legitimacy of the ban. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four female service members. All four had served tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, and two had received Purple Hearts for injuries sustained on duty.
Reversing the ban, said ACLU senior staff attorney Ariela Migdal, means ''qualified women will have the same chance to distinguish themselves in combat as their brothers-in-arms, which they actually already have been doing with valour and distinction''.
The chairman of the Senate armed services committee, Senator Carl Levin, supported the new policy: ''It reflects the reality of 21st-century military operations,'' he said.
But Elaine Donnelly, president of the Centre for Military Readiness, a non-profit group that opposes women in combat, said the change was ''irresponsible.''