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As part of its endeavor to open up career opportunities for female servicemembers, the Pentagon is set to announce that select female Marine volunteers will be allowed to attend the Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Virginia and other combat training courses.  Graduates from the Officers Course go on to lead units in frontline combat, and women had been heretofore barred from serving.

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/...

"We are in the process right now of soliciting volunteers," Dunford told the Times for a story published Wednesday.

Enlisted women also will have a chance to take infantry training, Dunford told the Times, which reported that it wasn't yet clear what jobs would be assigned to women who complete the training. Marine Corps officials planned to reveal details "in the coming days," the Times reported.

Earlier this year, CNN's Barbara Starr reported that the Pentagon was planning to open up nearly 14,000 jobs to military women - jobs that would place them closer to the front lines of combat.

Some of the newly opened jobs were to include specialties such as tank or artillery mechanic, missile launcher crew members and field surgeons in forward deployed brigade combat teams. However, women still would not be permitted in frontline jobs directly involved in combat such as infantry units or counterterrorism sniper teams.

Smartly I think, the Marine Corps is adapting their training regimen so as to mirror real-world physical needs that all recruits would have to perform.  So instead of 'gender-normed' physical tests (fodder for opponents to women in combat), for instance all recruits would have to be able to prove they could move an M240 machine gun into position or escort a wounded comrade from the battlefield.

Aside from a major bit of progress on the civil rights front, this serves a critical national security need.  Female Marines & in other services have already been serving in frontline combat in Afghanistan in many of the roles listed above, as well as the lauded 'Female Engagement Teams' that serve with combat Marines in Helmand & Kandahar Province.  FETs doing the hard work of counterinsurgency by engaging the women of Afghanistan, opening up more than half Afghanistan's population for intel gathering & rapport building. Now these brave Marines have the opportunity for formal training & advancement equal to their male counterparts.

Unlike Don't Ask Don't Tell or Desegregation, the opening of all opportunities to women in the military will be slow, arduous, and incremental.  Its already been going on.  Female servicemembers already fly helicopter gunships & F-22 stealth fighters.  They treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Serve aboard submarines.  Graduate from the service academies.  Progress all made in the last 30 years.

Why is it that a woman can fly an A-10 Warthog but not drive an M-1 tank?  Why can she serve in the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team but not the 75th Ranger Regiment?  Why can she volunteer to crash her F-16 into a hijacked airliner, but not lead a flanking assault on an insurgent sniper? These are questions that have always mystified me.  But thankfully, they are increasingly mystifying to people in power.

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