Women to Serve in Combat Positions in the Military

Maureen Wurtz

OMAHA (KPTM)- The US Military is working to open combat positions to women.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday, following a year of consultations, that women will be able to serve in combat jobs, something they had never been allowed to before.

This opens up about 200,000 jobs to women.

The issue now is coming up with training standards women will have to meet to qualify for those positions.

"Over more than a decade of war, they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism," said Leon Panetta, the Defense Secretary. "152 women in uniform have died serving this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proven their willingness to fight and to die to defend their fellow Americans."

Panetta said not everyone is entitled to be a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to a chance.

Darlene McMartin agreed with Panetta, and said women have been serving in combat for years, and this is the first time they've been acknowledged. "They can't have a combat infantry badge, because they can't be in a combat unit," said McMartin. "But they can be in a support unit that suffers an IED, that suffers the same experiences, but they aren't just getting the acknowledgment."

McMartin works with veterans all over Pottawattamie County. She's also a veteran.

She said the announcement is a good thing for women, but active duty and retired. "(They can) feel like they are accepted, more so than just being in the military."

Critics worry women won't be able to meet the physical standards of combat. "If they are not trained to the job, then they don't need to be put in that situation," said McMartin. "If they're trained well enough they need to be allowed to be put in those situations."

More than 150 female troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 800 have been hurt.

"A lot of them have traumatic brain injury, a lot of them have PTSD, because of the things that they've seen," said McMartin.

She said since women will be able to serve in combat, they also will be able to serve in higher positions in the military. "We always try to tell our children and our daughters that they can be whatever they want to be, there's no limits. Well, in the military, they've always had limits on them," said McMartin.

Military officials said the changes will take effect over the next three years, but will start as soon as May 15th.