President Obama on Thursday said he strongly supports the end of a 19-year ban on women in combat.
"Today, by moving to open more military positions—including ground combat units—to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens," Obama said in a statement. "This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today’s military. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 150 women who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan—patriots whose sacrifices show that valor knows no gender."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military. Obama called Panetta earlier Thursday.
About 200,000 women are among the 1.4 million active-duty personnel currently serving in the military.
"As commander in chief, I am absolutely confident that—as with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—the professionalism of our armed forces will ensure a smooth transition and keep our military the very best in the world," Obama said. "Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love."
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say whether Obama asked for the change, but said he and Panetta had spoken about it.