WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta officially announced the end of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule excluding women from assignment to units and positions whose primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat, Jan. 24.
“This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today’s military,” said President Barack Obama.
What does this mean for Marines?
Rescinding the exclusion opens about 237,000 positions to women Department of Defense-wide. Of the DoD total, 54,721 are Marine positions: 38,445 in combat-related military occupational specialties and 15,276 assignments with ground combat units.
Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, the 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, addressed Marines in a video regarding the ending of the exclusion policy, stressing that the rescinding of this policy will not impair readiness, degrade combat effectiveness or cohesion.
“Our plan is deliberate, measured, and responsible,” he said. “We will not lower our standards.”
“The decision as to whether or not to do this has passed,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, the Deputy Commandant, Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “We are doing this the right way.
“Does this mean that we’re immediately going to open every MOS? No. MOS’s like infantry, reconnaissance and Marine special operations will not be immediately opened.”
For well over the past year, the Secretary of Defense has been working closely with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all of the military service chiefs, to examine how to expand the opportunities for women in the armed services.
“It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation,” Panetta said. “They're serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield. The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.”
Goals and milestones have been established by DoD to support of the elimination of unnecessary gender-based barriers to women’s service to provide the time necessary to institutionalize the changes and integrate women into occupational fields in a climate where they can succeed and flourish.
“As our Corps moves forward with this process, our focus will remain on combat readiness and generating combat-ready units while simultaneously ensuring maximum success for every Marine,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “The talent pool from which we select our finest warfighters will consist of all qualified individuals, regardless of gender.”