Gabbard: End to combat ban ‘long overdue’

“We have 1.8 million women veterans across the country,” she added. “This is an official recognition of the sacrifices women have been making for this country.”

Gabbard, who served in Iraq, is one of two female combat veterans in Congress, along with Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). 

Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey are slated to officially announce the decision to end the ban on Thursday. The move could open up more than 230,000 jobs that had previously been closed to women.

Panetta’s decision, though, would give military services until 2016 to request exemptions for positions they believe should remain closed to women. 

Asked if there were any such positions she thought should remain closed, Gabbard said no.

“I don’t think so. I think you need to look at what are the qualifications, what are the standards for the specific job that are already in place and opening those doors to anyone who volunteers to serve our country,” said the Hawaii lawmaker. “If women are in an ability to meet those standards, they should serve.”

Some critics of the decision have said that mixed-gender combat teams could harm unit cohesion, but Gabbard dismissed those claims.

“We’re talking about highly trained professionals, people who build our strong military because they place the mission first and are there to fight as a member of the team,” said Gabbard. “All of the other things that differentiate us, make us unique, whether it be gender or race or religion, all of these things fall aside when you’re there putting the mission first and selflessly serving as a member of the team.”