Equality between men and women has finally found its way to the battlefield. On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta moved to overturn the 1994 ban on women serving in combat, breaking the glass ceiling which prevented women from advancing to higher-ranking positions within the military. “In life, as we all know, there are no guarantees of success,” Secretary Panetta said. “Not everyone is gonna be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance.” American women were already serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but now they are eligible for combat jobs in the U.S. Army such as infantry, armor and artillery.
U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is also a lieutenant colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard and lost both of her legs in 2004 when her Black Hawk helicopter went down in Iraq.
Duckworth explained to Hardball’s Chris Matthews that women were “attached” to units to help armed forces in combat, but were not technically “assigned” to the unit. “The women were engaging in the same firefights, doing the exact same thing, but they were not seen as being combat troops,” Rep. Duckworth says. “Women were already doing these jobs, but not being recognized as doing it.”
Capt. Zoe Bedell was one of those who served two deployments in Afghanistan and has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ban on women in combat. “I knew that what was happening over there was not in line with what the policy was saying, and that policy got in our way,” says Capt. Bedell. “Frankly it made it more difficult for us to accomplish our mission.”
The move by Panetta will now acknowledge the service of women in combat and open doors for them to advance their careers in the military.
“When I’ve gone to Arlington to bury our dead, there is no distinction that’s made between sacrifices of men and women in uniform,” says Secretary Panetta. “They serve, they’re wounded, and they die right next to each other. The time has come to recognize that reality.”