Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Thursday that the United States military will open certain branches of the military that were not accessible to women in the past.
The lift of this ban on women in combat also includes the Navy, Marines and Air Force.
This change will not happen immediately. It should start sometime in 2016 and be in full swing by 2018, Lt. Col. Noma Martini said.
Martini, also a professor of military science at the University of Florida, said there are about 145 cadets in the UF program and about 45 cadets at the University of North Florida. Women comprise about 2 to 4 percent of the cadet core, he said.
Martini said the top cadets in the freshmen, junior and senior classes are all female.
“The females that we do have are awesome, and they are advancing to the front,” he said. “They are held to the same standards as the men are across the board. There are no special treatments given to the females at all. A cadet is a cadet.”
Martini said he hopes to see an increase in females interested in the military. Less than 1 percent of Americans choose to serve their country, and about 30 percent of the people that can are physically, mentally and emotionally fit to serve, he said.
Out of the pool of people he can pull from, about 50 percent are women, Martini said.
“At our level, there is no difference between a male and female cadet,” he said. “When we go to the field, they live in the same barracks and share the same bathroom.”
Martini said they are not going to change the way they do business, but they will welcome the hopeful influx.
Cadet Col. Lauren Cook said she disagrees with lifting the ban on women in combat.
“I definitely think that women make great strides in the military, but I do think that there are some things that men do better than women and some things women do better than men,” she said.
Cook, who grew up in a military environment, said putting women in combat situations sometimes detracts from the mission because the men are focused more on protecting the women than completing the mission.
On the other hand, being a woman in the ROTC has taught Cook important life skills like leadership and how to set a good example for other cadets, she said.
“Being surrounded by all these boys all the time, you kind of have to learn how to stand on your own,” Cook said.
Cadet 2nd Lt. Holly Henderson disagrees.
Henderson, a supplemental training officer, said women have come a long way since not even being allowed in armed forces to now being allowed in combat. She said it will be an adjustment to have women in that aspect of the military.
“As long as the women are being held to the same standards, I don’t think there will be an issue with them in combat,” Henderson said.
Rebekah Geier wrote this story online.