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January 25, 2013

Women “Entitled to a Chance” at Combat Roles

Teachers: This video contains a 3 minute story followed by a 9 minute discussion between Gwen Ifill and two members of the armed services.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey announced on January 24 that they plan to lift a 1994 ban on women in military combat roles.

“Not everyone is going to be a combat soldier,” said Panetta in his statement, “but everyone is entitled to a chance.”

Watch their discussion here or below:

The lifting of the ban is part of the military’s effort to provide equal opportunities for honors and advancement to both women and men.

Dempsey explained that lifting the ban is also an effort to stop instances of sexual misconduct in the military, “when you have one part of the population that is designated as warriors and another part that’s designated as something else, I think that disparity begins to establish a psychology that in some cases led to that environment. I have to believe, the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the frontlines and “safe zones” in war are no longer clear, and many female troops in non-combat roles have lost their lives alongside their male counterparts.

Nearly 300,000 American women have been deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, out of which 152 have died and many more have been wounded. With the ban lifted, the military will put plans into motion to put women on the frontlines and free up 230,000 military jobs for women. Military officials have yet to determine what this policy means for women’s involvement in special operations forces like the Navy SEALs as well as in the event of a reinstatement of the draft.


“And let me be clear. We’re not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job. If they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation,” – Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary.

Warm Up Questions

1. What kind of jobs are available in the military?

2. Do you know anyone who has served in the military? Do you know any women who have served in the military?

3. What are the different branches of the military? What type of training to military servicemen have to go through before going to combat?

Discussion Questions

1. Why is the issue of women’s involvement in the military being addressed today?

2. Do you think women should be drafted into military service if the draft is reinstated? Why or why not?

3. What other groups or jobs exist today which present gender barriers for women or for men?

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