PENTAGON OPENS COMBAT ROLE TO WOMEN
Is this really what American's want for their daughters? Call me old school, but I don't like it. I still believe that men are on the front lines at war time. Is this "new woman" somehow making us a better nation? A safer nation? Some may say, "If that is what they choose, then why not". Okay. What about a draft? Remember those? Do we really want 18 year old Mary, Nancy, Natalie and Sarah drafted? Brother and sister on the battlefield together? This is just one more stress put on the American family. - W.E.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to lift the military's 1994 ban on women serving in direct combat roles.
The unanimous vote by the country's top generals removes all barriers to women, opening thousands of jobs serving on the front lines and in Special Forces.
"They've proven themselves time and time again over the last 12 years. Finally, they're going to get recognition, which is key," retired U.S. Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli said.
Panetta plans to accept the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommendation Thursday. That means the military will be fully integrated for the first time in U.S. history.
Critics say that putting men and women together in combat could hurt unit effectiveness, creating distractions and sexual tension.
They also say women are not physically able to perform more demanding tasks.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., an Iraq War veteran, described the move as being "totally out of left field."
"The question you've got to ask yourself every single time you make a change like this is does it increase the combat effectiveness of the military? I think the answer is no," he said.
But advocates for the change pointed out that women have been serving in direct combat roles for years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The reality of the battlefield has changed since the Vietnam Era. About everyone is serving in a combat situation," freshman Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a double amputee war veteran, said.
Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, a Silver Star recipient, recalled, "We were taking fire everywhere. I just remember hearing the pings of the bullets going by me and hitting the ground beside me. I shot one guy and saw him fall."
An ABC News poll shows three-quarters of Americans support women in combat.
Women currently make up 14 percent of the military's 1.4 million active duty personnel. Veterans say lifting the combat ban makes it possible for females to make the military a lasting career.
Most branches of the military will present their plans to open jobs to women by May 15. But senior commanders will have until January 2016 to ask for exceptions if they believe certain roles should remain closed to women.