AP: Secretary Panetta Lifts the Ban on Women in Combat

Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta

Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta

The Associated Press is reporting that Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat. The move opens hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs to women in the military

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

The Defense Secretary was sued last year by four women in the military and the American Civil Liberties Union who claimed the exclusion of women from combat positions was unconstitutional.

NPR reports that the ACLU website  published a post from one of the plaintiffs, Major Mary Jennings Hegar, who has been deployed twice to Afghanistan.

She tells the story of being shot at in a helicopter while trying to rescue a fellow soldier and concludes:

“If there is one thing I’ve learned about the differences between us all throughout my years of service, it’s this: putting the right person in the right job has very little to do with one’s gender, race, religion, or other demographic descriptor. It has everything to do with one’s heart, character, ability, determination and dedication.

“That’s the problem with the military’s combat exclusion policy. It makes it that much harder for people to see someone’s abilities, and instead reinforces stereotypes about gender.


The Tampa Socialite Who Stole CENTCOM’s Christmas

Gen. John Allen, ISAF Commander. Photo courtesy of the DoD.

The fallout continues from former CIA director David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer. A report, by the Associated Press in the Tampa Tribune, cites a source who suggests the annual U.S. Central Command holiday party has been cancelled due to the high visibility of the broadening scandal.

Jill Kelley is the Tampa socialite who first alerted the FBI about threatening emails she received that eventually revealed Petraeus’ affair. That led to an examination of Kelley’s emails with the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen. The FBI referred those “reportedly” thousands of emails between Kelley and Allen to the Department of Defense Inspector General which is investigating.

But, Kelley was known by the top brass beyond Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base. Tampa Tribune reporter Howard Altman reports she received the¬†Joint Chiefs of Staff’s second-highest award for civilians:

Kelley was recognized for “outstanding public service to the United States Central Command, the MacDill Air Force Base community and the Department of Defense from October 31, 2008 to May 31, 2010,” according to the award citation. “Mrs. Kelley distinguished herself by exceptional service while supporting the mission of the United Central Command, building positive relationships between the military and the Tampa community, supporting community outreach, and advancing various military endeavors.”

The citation also states that Kelley’s “willingness to host engagements with Senior National Representatives from more than 60 countries was indicative of her support for both the Coalition’s effort and the mission of United States Central Command.”

Gen. Allen’s nomination to be Commander of United States European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe is on hold pending the Inspector General’s investigation.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has asked the Senate to “act promptly” on the nomination of General Joseph Dunford, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, to succeed General Allen at ISAF.

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