“If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual orientation,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds the decision of the Department of Defense to lift the ban on women in direct combat roles, setting a historic precedent and opening up more than 230,000 positions to women. Each of the military branches has to produce an implementation plan by May 15, with progress assessments due every subsequent 90 days. This change will reduce discrimination and allow for equality of opportunity, including allowing women to access promotions that they may not have been able to qualify for in the past. Further, this change reflects the reality of war, particularly those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than a quarter of a million women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and 152 women have been killed in action. “The modern battlefield means there are no front lines or safe areas…My [female] Marines supported infantry units. They patrolled every day. They wore the same gear. They carried the same rifles. And when my Marines were attacked, they fought back,” stated Zoe Bedell, a Captain in the USMC and OEF vet. “The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality [on the ground],” stated Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The policy changes will not lower or eliminate physical fitness or mental requirements for combat positions; “[but] everyone is entitled to a chance,” said Defense Secretary Panetta. U.S Representative and Veteran Tammy Duckworth said, “The decision to allow women to serve in combat will allow the best man or woman on the front line to keep America safe.”
NASW continues to work with the White House Joining Forces Initiative to provide optimal care for our military Service Members, Veterans, and their families. NASW will be rolling out five free military-related continuing education courses and a military credential for social workers in the Spring of 2013. Standards for Social Work Practice with Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families are available now.