Navy Secretary: Rescinding Combat Ban Continues Inclusion Trend
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2013 In a statement expressing his support of a Defense Department policy change that rescinds a ban on military women serving in certain ground-combat positions, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus noted that the Navy and Marine Corps already had taken steps to open up fields previously available only to men.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the policy change yesterday and signed a joint memo to set the process in motion.
"I am pleased the Navy has completed an initiative I announced several months ago to open up one of the few areas not currently available to women, that of service on Virginia-class submarines,” Mabus said. “Three years ago, we announced a policy change allowing women to serve in guided-missile attack and ballistic missile submarines, and this is a planned continuation of that effort.”
Newly commissioned female officers have been selected for assignment to Virginia-class subs upon successful completion of the naval nuclear powered training pipeline, Mabus said.
“We expect these officers, along with female supply corps officers, to report to their submarines in [fiscal 2015],” he added. “We also plan to include female enlisted sailors in this process.
“The Navy has a long history of inclusion and integration,” he continued, “and I am proud we have achieved another important milestone during my tenure as secretary.”
Rescinding the direct ground-combat exclusion allows the Navy to expand opportunities for women in its riverine forces and in billets that directly support Marine infantry operations, such as hospital corpsmen and chaplains, Mabus noted.
He also pointed out that the Marine Corps -- which is part of the Navy Department -- already has opened officer and staff noncommissioned officer billets in unrestricted mission occupational specialties in ground combat units that were previously closed to women, such as artillery, armor, low-altitude air defense and combat engineer battalions.
“We will continue to seek female volunteers to train at the Infantry Officer Course to prepare women to serve in the infantry as part of a comprehensive research plan that will inform the Marine Corps' implementation plan,” the Navy secretary said.
As the Marine Corps moves forward with this process, he added, the focus will remain on combat readiness and generating combat-ready units while simultaneously ensuring maximum success for every Marine.
"Women continue to serve bravely and honorably at sea and ashore,” Mabus said. “Drawing from their talent in additional assignments increases our ability to maintain readiness.”