Pentagon Relaxes Restrictions on Women Serving in Combat

February 9, 2012 4:34 pm

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ACLU Welcomes New Policies That Come Closer to Recognizing Women’s Contributions on the Battlefield

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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon today announced plans to allow women to serve in battalion positions that are closer to ground combat than had previously been permitted, opening up 14,000 new jobs or assignment opportunities. Women will still be barred from serving in infantry, armor or special operations forces.

Women have long been prevented from being assigned to units engaged in direct ground combat purely on the basis of their sex, despite longstanding criticism that this wholesale exclusion of women violates the principle of equal opportunity and fails to recognize the reality on the ground. Despite the exclusionary policy, servicewomen have served in combat during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars without receiving official credit for doing so, when commanders “attach” as opposed to “assign” women to combat units. This practice hinders promotion opportunities for women because they lack officially recognized combat experience solely because of rules limiting what women soldiers can officially do.

“Those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have known for years that women put their lives on the line on the battlefield alongside their male counterparts,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “While these new policies are welcome, the military should do away with these outdated and harmful exclusion policies once and for all. The idea of excluding women from combat is rooted not in military reality, but in archaic notions of women’s proper role as the center of home and hearth.”

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