(Center for American Progress) — The changing nature of warfare necessarily means that women will be placed in positions where combat is inevitable. U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that enemy combatants prefer to bring the battle to civilian-populated areas, targeting both civilians and combatants and men and women alike. Policies designed to keep servicewomen from the frontlines of battle cannot be enforced where frontlines do not exist. Successful counterinsurgency operations have and will continue to demand that women soldiers are placed in combat regardless of whether their role is officially a combat role.

But due to the combat-exclusion policy set forth by the Pentagon in 1994, women in the Army and Marine Corps cannot formally be assigned to ground combat units. Instead they are deployed in combat zones attached to combat units though technically in a support role. The combat-exclusion policy prevents female soldiers and Marines from receiving recognition for their service in combat, which is crucial to promotion into the senior ranks of the military services. Blocking women from official combat occupations has presented a host of problems by creating two classes of service members based on gender—which neither preserves a legitimate national security interest nor shields women from enemy fire. Instead it protects and perpetuates the brass ceiling that women in the military have yet to shatter.

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