MILITARY

Florida National Guard chief endorses women in combat

 

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

The Florida National Guard’s top officer on Thursday endorsed the Pentagon’s decision to clear women for combat roles in the U.S. military.

Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr., who holds the title of Adjutant General of Florida, called it a “historic decision” in a statement from headquarters in St. Augustine and said the Guard supports it.

Women are currently excluded from 12 military specialties in the Florida Army National Guard, the statement noted — including infantry, field artillery and Special Forces. The Guard said it was ready to make the change, and awaiting instructions from higher headquarters.

Florida Guard women soldiers have for years already served on the frontlines in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Guard statement added. Female Florida soldiers are also currently “serving in support of operations in Southwest Asia and around the globe,” it said.

“Our formations in Florida are combat tested and all Soldiers and Airmen, women and men alike, have served dutifully and with distinction in any task given. The Florida National Guard will work with the respective services to ensure a full understanding of implementation guidance and comply with the directed timelines.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the decision to lift the ban on women serving in combat at a Pentagon news conference on Thursday. He described woman as integral to the military’s success, noting they have demonstrated a willingness to fight and die along men in combat.

“The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality,” Panetta said Thursday at a Pentagon news conference with Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Panetta said that not all women will be able to meet the qualifications to be a combat soldier. “But everyone is entitled to a chance,” he said.

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