Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced on Jan. 24 a lifting of the ban on military women in combat roles. In December 2011, the Pew Research Center examined the roles and attitudes of female military veterans and found that, while many combat roles were withheld from female veterans, women in the military did report experiencing combat and had many of the same issues as men during their transition back into civilian life.
Prior to the Jan. 24 announcement, the Department of Defense prohibited the assignment of women to any “unit below brigade level whose primary mission is direct ground combat,” but while this excluded women from roles like infantry and special operations commandos, many servicewomen in combat-related roles could still find themselves in situations that required combat action. For example, DOD policy changes in the early 1990s allowed women to fly combat aircrafts and serve on combat ships.
Read the full report, Women in the U.S. Military: Growing Share, Distinctive Profile, on the Pew Research Center website.