History of Women in Combat: U.S.A.

Source: Service Women’s Action Network

Women have fought in the US military in every major conflict since the American Revolution. The 1994 Combat Exclusion Policy was the last official policy barring women from assignments which exposed them to ground combat. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made the policy increasingly obsolete. Commanders on the ground have conducted operations on asymmetric battlefields, where the potential for engagement in direct ground combat is ever-present, and the absence of a clear line between enemy and friendly territory means that every soldier regardless of gender must be combat-ready. In fact, In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. service women have regularly participated in ground combat as members of Forward Support Companies (FSCs), Lioness Teams, Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) and Female Engagement Teams (FETs), making the 1994 policy meaningless.

The changing nature of modern warfare and the critical role that women have played in mission success led to a historic policy change this year. On January 24, 2013, after unanimous input from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed a memo eliminating the ban on women serving in ground combat units, and bringing an official end to the Combat Exclusion Policy. Additionally, the memo required that any service refusing to fully integrate women into every occupational field request an exception directly from the Secretary of Defense.