U.S. Opens Up Slots for Female Soldiers to Serve in Combat Zones

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By Erik Pineda | January 24, 2013 5:16 PM EST

U.S. female soldiers could see combat deployment soon following reports that Pentagon has decided to lift the ban of sending women to active fighting zones, with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta set to announce details of the new policy on Thursday.

Calling the development 'groundbreaking', The Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday that the American military establishment will likely open up combat duties for its female service members, currently numbering to hundred of thousands.

Reportedly heeding the recommendations earlier submitted by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr Panetta's new directive will quash the rule that prevents all branches of the U.S armed services to put women in harm's way.

Citing a military official as its source, AP indicated on its report that beginning this year female members of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines will be considered for frontline assignments or in active theatres of war where U.S. forces are deployed.

The same source also suggested that female recruits could see actions in elite commando units such as the Navy SEALs and Delta Force. However, this scenario is not expected to become a reality anytime soon.

According to Agence France Presse (AFP), Mr Panetta will instruct key officials of the U.S. armed services to draw up plans for the implementation of the new policy. Military commanders will be given until January 2016 to submit their recommendations for consideration in the formulation of the policy guidelines.

Per Pentagon's figures, some 204,000 females service members will 'benefit' from the lifting of the ban, which was earlier implemented by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, AFP said on its report.

In a reaction, a member of the U.S. Congress called the Pentagon move as unnecessary.

"The question you've got to ask yourself every single time you make a change like this is: Does it increase the combat effectiveness of the military? ... I think the answer is no," Rep Duncan Hunter of California told USA Today on Wednesday.

But U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia welcomed the policy reversal, saying in a statement that "it is appropriate that we recognise the realities of modern military combat."

Another lawmaker took to Twitter to air her support of lifting the ban on combat duties for U.S. female soldiers that has been in effect since 1994.

"America's daughters are just as capable of defending liberty as her sons. Lifting the ban on women in combat is good for our nation," Rep Tammy Duckworth tweeted.

A double-amputee, Ms Duckworth served as a Black Hawk pilot during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, AFP said. She lost both of her leg sin active combat.

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