The Pentagon outlined its schedule for women to enter combat roles in the military Tuesday, advancing a January order by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to break down a decades-old gender barrier on the front lines.
“The days of Rambo are over,” said Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, the Director of Force Management for U.S. Special Operations Command. “There’s a new dynamic.”
Since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, women have served in harm’s way, whether as helicopter pilots, medics, or other personnel attached to units–an effect of the blurred battle-lines that a prevalence of improvised explosive devices created. Yet hundreds of thousands of jobs remained barred to them under a 1994 policy prohibiting inclusion in ground combat units below a designated level. Pannetta and Dempsey’s January decision would open nearly a quarter-million jobs currently off-limits to women, including assignments with special operations units.
Women are expected to begin training in some jobs previously closed to them as early as next year.
Sacolick noted that no decisions have been made to open Special Operations positions to women. Widely considered the most elite assignments, they include the Army Rangers and Navy Seals.
“At this point, no decisions have been made. Let me state that again, we haven’t made any decisions whatsoever,” Bennet said. “We’re going to spend the next year collecting and analyzing data.”
About 14% of the nation’s 1.4 million member active-duty military is female.
NBC’s Courtney Kube contributed to this report.