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American soldiers Kris Kuntz (left) and Hayley Barner in Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, last October. (AFP/Getty Images)

Women In Combat: Inevitable?

Feb 9, 2012

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The word that Pentagon rules may soon "catch up a bit with reality" as the military considers formally allowing women to do something that they've already been asked to do in Iraq and Afghanistan — serve close to the front lines but technically not "in combat" — raises a question.

As NPR's Tom Bowman reports, the new rules still wouldn't allow women to serve in front line combat jobs such as infantry, armor or Special Forces.

But officials tell The Associated Press that the new rules would "formally allow women to be assigned to a battalion and serve in jobs such as medics, intelligence, police or communications officers."

Of course, as the AP says, in Iraq and Afghanistan many women have been doing just those jobs — but at the larger, brigade-level. Some have then been "attached" to battalions, "which meant they could do the work, but not get the credit for being in combat arms."

Tom reminds us that "thousands of women have served in both wars and more than 150 have been killed." Women make up about 15 percent of the active duty military, he says.

The Pentagon's proposal comes in a recommendation to Congress that's due to be released later today.

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET. Pentagon Releases Recommendation:

The Pentagon announcement can be read here.

(Note: That isn't a scientific survey above. It's just a question to spark discussion.)
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