Women Could Be On The Front Lines In Just A Few Years

FORT DIX, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In just a few years, women could be training to be Navy Seals or Army Rangers on the front lines, under a plan just released Tuesday by the Pentagon.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta launched the ban on women serving in combat back in January.

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With the stroke of a pen, Panetta broke down the barrier between men and women in the military.

But before any plan is enacted, Pentagon officials said they were first developing gender-neutral tests that men and women must pass to qualify to be in combat units.

Women will have to meet the same standards as men to get the jobs.

“We haven’t made any decisions whatsoever,” said Special Operations Command Major Gen. Bennett Sacolick. “We’re going to spend the next year collecting and analyzing data.”

There are more than 200,000 women in the military — some 15 percent of the force — mostly in the Army and the Marines. Because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, women have been pushed into the front lines in jobs as medics, intelligence officers, and military police.

Of the more than 67,000 servicemembers killed, 150 have been women.

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The Navy plans on opening up its Riverine force, and begin training women next month.

The Pentagon is also looking at other issues with women being in small units.

“The concern once again is privacy issues, there’s other issues; there’s health and welfare,” Sacolick said. “Quite frankly, I was encouraged by the physical performance of some of the young girls that aspire to go into the cultural support teams.”

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in January that he thinks lifting the ban will have another benefit — reducing the number of sexual assaults on women soldiers.

Dempsey said the sexual assault problem is due partly to the military class system — male “warriors” versus the rest of the force.

Special Operations troops are expected to be the toughest hurdle for women to clear, and some jobs could be off limits to women if studies find women cannot be successful in sufficient numbers.

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