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Lifting Ban on Women in Combat - Highlights of News Conference Transcript

Quotes from Defense Sec. Leon Panetta, Gen. Martin Demspey on Women in Military

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Lifting Ban on Women in Combat - Highlights of News Conference Transcript

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey

© Win McNamee/Getty Images
Updated January 28, 2013
The following are highlights of the January 24, 2013 press briefing on lifting the military ban on women in combat. The quotes below -- from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey -- focus on the contributions of women service members and the factors behind the decision to lift the ban. The excerpts were drawn from the full transcript of the briefing which is available at the U.S. Department of Defense website

Quotes from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta:

"Our nation was built on the premise of the citizen soldier.  In our democracy...it is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation.  And every citizen who can meet the qualifications of service should have that opportunity." 

"...[W]omen are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000....serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield....[T]hey have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission."  

"Over more than a decade of war, [women] have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism.  A hundred and fifty-two women in uniform have died serving this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Female servicemembers have faced the reality of combat, proven their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans."  

"...[T]he fact [is] that everyone -- everyone, men and women alike -- everyone is committed to doing the job.  They're fighting and they're dying together.  And the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality."  

"[W]e must open up service opportunities for women as fully as possible....eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service....to ensure that the mission is carried out by the best qualified and the most capable servicemembers, regardless of gender and regardless of creed and beliefs.  If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job...then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation....[O]ur military is more effective when success is based solely on ability and qualifications and on performance."

"....In life, as we all know, there are no guarantees of success.  Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier.  But everyone is entitled to a chance." 

  "....[W}e are renewing our commitment to the American values our servicemembers fight and die to defend....[T]here is no distinction that's made between the sacrifices of men and women in uniform.  They serve, they're wounded, and they die right next to each other.  The time has come to recognize that reality."  

"By opening up more opportunities for people to serve in uniform, we are making our military stronger and we are making America stronger...[W]e deeply honor all of those past generations ...who fought and died for our freedom....[T]heir sacrifice has ensured that the next greatest generation will be one of men and women who will fight and die together to protect this nation.  And that is what freedom is all about."  

Quotes from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey:

"...[W]e will extend opportunities to women in a way that maintains readiness, morale, and unit cohesion.  We'll preserve our warfighting capability to defend the nation.  And we will uphold the trust and confidence of the American people as we go forward.  Our nation demands no less."

   "We'll also integrate women in a way that enhances opportunity for everyone.  This means setting clear standards of performance for all occupations based on what it actually takes to do the job.  It also means ensuring that these standards are gender neutral in occupations that will open to women."  

"...[W]omen will continue to serve with distinction throughout our armed forces, in and out of combat, on land and at sea and in the air.  We all wear the same uniform, and we all fire the same weapons.  And most importantly, we all take the same oath." 

  "...[I]n 2003, when I got to Baghdad, as the commander of 1st Armored Division...I hopped into the up-armored Humvee, and I asked the driver...who he was, where he was from, and I slapped the turret gunner around the leg, and I said, "Who are you?"  And she leaned down and said, "I'm Amanda."  And I said, "Ah, okay."  So, female turret-gunner protecting division commander.  And it's from that point on that I realized something had changed, and it was time to do something about it." 

"...[T]he burden used to be that we would say, why should a woman serve in a particular specialty?  Now it's, why shouldn't a woman serve in a particular specialty?" 

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