President Obama defended the Pentagon’s decision to lift the ban on women in combat roles, saying that he had no hesitation sending female troops into harm’s way.
“Women as a practical matter are now in combat,” Obama said during a live interview Sunday on CBS before the Super Bowl. “They may not get treated as if they are in combat, but when they are in theater, in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are vulnerable, they are wounded and they’ve been killed.
“They have carried out their jobs with extraordinary patriotism and distinction,” he added.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey last month lifted the ban on female servicemembers being in ground combat units, a move which could open up as many as 237,000 new positions to female troops.
The military services, though, have until 2016 to make the case for leaving some positions or occupations closed to women.
Obama said that female troops had shown that they could handle the rigors of military life. The president said there were already “extraordinary women in uniform who can do everything a man can.”
“One of my military aides is about 5-feet tall, probably weighs 100 pounds. You put a 50-pound pack on her and she can do things that you or me would keel over doing,” he added.
“The truth is that women are serving, they are taking great risks. What we should not do is somehow prevent them from advancing in an institution that we all revere,” said Obama.
A Gallup poll last week showed that 74 percent of respondents would back a law allowing women to serve in combat, with 20 percent opposing.