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US military's last barrier to equality: ban on women in combat

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 5 other profiles in perseverance

Women now make up 14.6 percent of the US military. Since 2001, more than 255,000 women have been deployed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more than 120 have been killed and almost 700 wounded. Many women have earned combat awards for valor – including two Silver Stars. Women are killing the enemy, saving lives, and showing great bravery and valor in combat conditions. They are also crucial for searching local women and children for weapons at checkpoints and during raids, and engaging with the female population as part of counterinsurgency strategy.

An outdated, confusing technicality

Yet the Army is gaming the restrictions by assigning women to permissible positions, but attaching them to combat units to get the mission done. The current policy is a legal fiction, which not only degrades combat efficiency, effectiveness, and flexibility, but confuses military commanders.

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