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...Since 2001, about 280,000 American women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 12 percent of all troops who deployed, with 144 female troops killed in the wars, including 79 in combat, according to the Pentagon.
“It’s a baby step,” said Donna McAleer, a graduate of the military academy at West Point and author who has called for repealing the combat ban.
Opponents of allowing women in ground combat argue that they lack the required physical strength, that their presence could prove disruptive to the “cohesion” of combat units and that mothers should not be placed in harm’s way.
But advocates say the military’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown otherwise.
Officials said Thursday the new policy would also encourage the armed services to develop “gender neutral” physical standards for jobs, which might eventually lead to easing current restrictions on women’s roles.
The policy change comes months after the US military ended a ban on openly gay troops serving in uniform, following years of political debate and a survey of troops.