Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey announced today the rescission the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women and that the Department of Defense plans to remove gender-based barriers to service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston/Released)
by Airman 1st Class Nicole Sikorski
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/5/2013 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- For 20 years women have been soaring high as combat pilots serving in the U.S. Air Force and they'll continue in even more combat roles after a unanimous decision by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 100 percent of Air Force careers have recently opened up to women as of Jan. 24, 2013.
The 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule that previously prohibited women from fulfilling special operations careers have been rescinded.
In an effort to thoroughly assimilate women further into the Air Force's occupational fields, positions such as combat control officer, combat rescue/special tactics officer, special operations weather officer, enlisted combat controller, enlisted tactical air command and control, enlisted pararescue and enlisted special operations weather are all a part of the one percent of jobs that are now all available to women.
The final plan to integrate women into special operations careers will be decided upon no later than May 2013.
Although, this is the first time women have been able to fulfill combat positions, it is not the first time they will be exposed to war. Over the past decade 280,000 women have been deployed.
According to many female Airmen at Shaw, the new adjustment has been long overdue.
"If I had the right training, I would be able to do exactly what a man does," said Staff Sgt. Latoya Copes, 20th Security Forces Squadron patrolman. "There are certainly some women who would prefer to work from an office, but the Air Force has females who are mentally and physically capable of partaking in a combat role."
Staff Sgt. Cecy Hunter, also a 20th SFS patrolman, added that she herself has been on deployments where she has had to work outside the wire, and explains that not only did she hold her own, but superseded her male counterparts.
"I was able to outdo some of our men on long hours of patrol," she said. "Mentally, you need to come prepared. Riding a bike doesn't come naturally and neither does this, you can have all the training in the world, but when you have a strong mind, you are capable of anything."
According to Copes and Hunter, many females have concerns about being treated equally in a combat situation.
Master Sgt. Chris Edgerton, 20th SFS non-commissioned officer of operations, admits that it will be an adjustment, but that females are more than capable of doing the job.
"In 2004, while I was in Iraq, the majority of our heavy weapons gunners were females," said Edgerton. "They were able to tote their own weapons, load their own weapons and carry their own ammunition. All of the females I have worked with have carried their own outside the wire. As far as equality, there will be growing pains, however, special operations is such a small community, that once you have women who prove themselves with the completion of training, they will be accepted."