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Pentagon rules shift on women in combat: Sources


WASHINGTON (AP): Defence Department rules are catching up a bit with reality after a decade when women in the US military have served, fought and died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, the Pentagon is recommending to Congress that women be allowed to serve in more jobs closer to the front lines.

According to defence officials, the new rules are expected to continue the long-held prohibition that prevents women from serving as infantry, armour and special operations forces. But they will formally allow women to serve in other jobs at the battalion level, which until now had been considered too close to combat.

In reality, however, the necessities of war have already propelled women to the front lines, often as medics, military police or intelligence officers. So, while a woman couldn't be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion or in a company going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.

The officials said the new rules will formally allow women to be assigned to a battalion and serve in jobs such as medics, intelligence officers, police or communications officers. The changes would have the greatest effect on the Army and Marine Corps, which ban women from more jobs than the Navy and Air Force do, largely because of the infantry positions.

Defence officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because it had not yet been publicly released.

There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, questioning whether they have the necessary strength and stamina, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.

There also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women coming home from war in body bags.

But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where battlefield lines are scattered and blurred and insurgents can be around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat. Thousands have served in the two wars, and more than 150 have been killed.

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US  Pentagon  Women  

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