The Pentagon is knocking down old barriers to women serving in combat, but some already are in risky jobs. A look at some of the dangerous jobs women can do now, and what will be open to them if they meet the qualifications:
PILOTS: In 1991, Congress ended a ban on women flying combat aircraft, and three years later the Air Force had its first woman commanding a fighter squadron. Women may fly every aircraft in the Air Force inventory, including bombers. Just last year, Col. Jeannie Flynn Leavitt became the Air Force’s first female wing commander, commanding 5,000 airmen. Women also fly combat aircraft in the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
The only Air Force jobs closed to women until now were special operations roles like enlisted pararescue and combat control officer. These jobs were opened Thursday by Panetta’s order.
SUBS: The Navy in April 2010 opened submarine service to women, but only aboard the larger ballistic missile and guided-missile subs, where berthing is less of a privacy problem than on attack subs. On Thursday the Navy announced it is extending that to include attack subs; female officers will begin reporting for assignment on those subs in 2015. The Navy has kept female sailors off frigates, patrol coastal craft and mine countermeasure ships until now.
MARINES: The decision announced Thursday to stop excluding women from ground combat roles means that about 35,000 Marine infantry slots would be opened to women, as long as they can meet the qualifications. Women already may serve in a variety of combat-related jobs in the Corps, including weapons repair officer. But they have been excluded from others like field artillery, forward air controller and combat engineer.
SOLDIERS: The Army has kept female officers out of many ground combat roles, including armor, infantry and special forces. For example, enlisted women could not be a cavalry scout or a fire support specialist, a position that is primarily responsible for the intelligence activities of the Army’s field artillery teams. But they have been allowed to serve as a field artillery radar operator or a supervisor of Patriot air defense units.