First woman to fly in combat reacts to removal of ground combat restriction for women

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced Thursday the Pentagon’s lifting of the direct ground combat exclusion rule for women.

“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation,” Panetta said Thursday in a press conference. “Everyone, men and women alike, everyone is committed to doing the job. They are fighting and dying together. The time has come for our policies to reflect that reality.”
The former candidate for Tucson’s Congressional seat, Martha McSally, was the first woman to fly in combat after restrictions on women in the military were eased in the 1990’s.
The retired colonel said Thursday's announcement is long overdue.
“I have been advocating for this barrier to come down for years,” McSally said in an interview.
In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the concept of the front line began to blur. McSally says because of that, in reality, women were already serving in combat.
“What the military was doing was gaming the system. They were assigning women to roles they were allowed to be in and then assigning those jobs to combat units,” she said.
Thursday’s announcement will open up more than 237,000 positions to women. Of the more than 1.4 million members of the United State military, about 200,000 are women. 
Women will not automatically shift into ground combat roles. They will need to meet certain standards, including physical standards. McSally says as long as a solider can do the job, their gender should not matter.
“America is about looking at people as individuals and identifying what their capabilities are, and then giving them the opportunity to serve. That is what makes America stronger," McSally said.