A Pentagon commission is recommending that ground combat units be open to female troops, arguing women are already engaged in combat and that keeping them out of operational career fields puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to promotion.The recommendation by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission has been expected since early January, when a draft version of the report was released. Opening combat arms to women was only one of 20 recommendations made by the commission. The report also presses for a military force that more closely reflects the country's demographics.Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, whose forces would see the most dramatic changes with women moving into combat jobs, did not comment on the recommendations.Retired Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles, who chaired the commission, said the women they interviewed -- all ranks from all branches -- were neither gung ho nor shy about the possibility of serving in combat units."I didn't hear, 'Rah, rah, we want to be in combat,' " Lyles said, "but I also didn't hear, 'We don't want to be in combat.'"What they want is an equal opportunity to serve where their skills allow them to serve," he said in a DoD release. "Removing the barriers for that, and removing the barriers to them getting credit for that, was our No. 1 focus."The commission is recommending that the Pentagon implement new policies that assign women based on their qualifications to tactical units below the brigade level."The commission is not advocating lowering of standards with the elimination of the combat exclusion policy," the final report states. "Qualification standards for combat arms positions should remain in place."The Pentagon instituted the so-called "combat exclusion policy" in 1994 that barred women from engaging "an enemy on the ground with weapons … [or] have a high probability of direct physical contact with the personnel of a hostile force." The rule has had the effect of keeping females out of infantry, artillery and armored units since then....
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