US & Canada

US to open all combat roles to women, defence secretary says

A female military officer takes part in a training exercise in the US Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The armed forces will have until next year to make the change

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has announced that all combat roles in the US military will be opened to women.

"America's force of the future," Mr Carter said, must be able to benefit from the "broadest possible pool of talent".

The move will lead to some 220,000 openings to women, he said.

Mr Carter is to give the armed services 30 days to submit plans to make the change. The US military has been easing restrictions over the past three years.

A ban on women serving in combat roles was lifted in 2013 but the military was given until 2016 to make the case for specific posts they thought should remain closed.

'No exceptions'

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford, had argued the Marine Corps should be allowed to keep women out of certain roles, citing studies showing that mixed-gender units are not as effective as all-male ones.

But Mr Carter rejected the argument. "There will be no exceptions," he said.

"As long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.

"They'll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, lead infantry soldiers into combat."

Nancy Duff Campbell of the National Women's Law Center said it was a "thrilling day for women serving in the military, and for women across the country".


Women in the US military

Image copyright Reuters
  • US women have already served - and died - in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, in support roles such as intelligence, logistics, security and flying military aircraft
  • The move will allow women to serve in some of the army's toughest jobs, such as Army Delta units and Navy Seals
  • In August, two women became the first females to pass through the elite US Army Rangers training programme, but until now were unable to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment fighting force

More on this story