“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” said US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, describing the new policy that opens every job in the US military to women. In a news conference on Thursday Carter said women will now be able to serve as “Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers” and other jobs that were until now open only to male candidates. In total more than 200,000 jobs will now potentially have twice as many candidates — and therefore be twice as competitive. The change has been afoot awhile, with incremental changes in different military branches showing the way. But this is the first time all branches, including a reluctant Marine Corps, will be required to ignore gender in filling all positions.
Women in the American military have long been limited by combat restrictions curtailing the capacity in which they can serve. The situation was considered a disservice especially to women serving in combat situations, often under fire, yet who weren’t technically in official combat positions. Combat positions are a critical rung on the ladder to career advancement in the military. The change creates an opportunity for meritocracy to thrive in the ranks, with the best case scenario resulting in stronger forces. The physical requirements of the jobs won’t change, however, so the ban on exclusion isn’t expected to result in a 50/50 male-to-female ration in combat any time soon.