1994 ban had previously stopped women from serving on the front line
The US military have officially lifted a ban on women serving in combat, saying anyone qualified should be able to fight on the front line regardless of gender.
Since 1994 women have been disallowed from fighting in war, despite making up 14 per cent of the US military’s 1.4 million active members. More than 280,000 of these women have done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan where they helped support the US war effort.
152 women have been killed in these conflicts.
Speaking at a press conference in the Pentagon yesterday, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that women had proved themselves in action on the battlefield.
Panetta said: ‘Everyone is entitled to a chance’, adding ‘one of my priorities as secretary of defense has been to remove as many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able to serve this country in uniform.
‘Women are already contributing in unprecedented ways to the mission … they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.’
This comes at the end of a long process of opening up the army to women and minorities, coming after a change allowing gay Americans to serve openly.
Last February 14,500 combat-related jobs were opened to women, paving the way for yesterday’s decision.
President Barack Obama issued a positive statement saying: ‘Today every American can be proud that our military will grown even stronger, with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love.’
This move could open up 230,000 new roles to women if they meet the exacting requirements for the posts.
Women can already fight on the frontline in Germany, Australia and Canada, but they are not able to do so in the UK.