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Military to Mull Opening all Combat Jobs to Women or Get Waivers

By the end of the month, the military services will submit recommendations on opening all combat jobs to women or request waivers for some roles.
Image: US Marine servicewomen from 2nd Battalio
U.S. Marine servicewomen from 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Golf Company, patrol in Basabad, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on March 9, 2011.ADEK BERRY / AFP-Getty Images file

By the end of this month, the military services have to submit recommendations about opening all combat jobs to women — deciding whether they will open everything up or if they will request waivers to continue to prohibit women from serving in certain areas.

The Navy and Air Force have already made it clear that they will open all positions to women. The Army has not said yet, but they are likely to open combat positions to women, as well — women now being allowed to go through Ranger School is one of the first steps in that direction.

The Marine Corps is the one service that remains a mystery.

And, unlike the other services, when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rescinded the Direct Ground Combat Rule in January 2013, a rule that prohibited women from serving in combat jobs, the Marines began a nearly year-long, multi-million dollar research study to determine whether female Marines could serve in combat roles.

The study included about 100 women and about 300 men — all volunteers.

A U.S. military official provided some of the results of that study today. Among the results:

  • Women were injured twice as often as the men (40.5% for women, 18.8% for men)
  • Men were more accurate at shooting on every weapon system except the M4
  • Women had trouble with combat tasks, including removing casualties

The Marine Corps spent $36 million on this study and U.S. military officials say it provides empirical evidence that certain combat roles — specifically artillery and infantry — may be too physically demanding for women.

The Marine Corps will provide a recommendation to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in the next two weeks and then he will forward his recommendation to Defense Secretary Ash Carter by the end of the month.