On July 12, 1988, 30 years ago, Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci III approved opening the Navy’s Underwater Construction Teams, fleet oilers, ammunition ships, and combat stores ships to women. The change came after the Defense Department adopted the Risk Rule that set a single standard for evaluating positions and units.
Each service used its own mission requirements and the Risk Rule to evaluate whether a noncombat position should be open or closed to women. In January 1994, SECDEF rescinded the Risk Rule as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. In DoD’s view, the rule was no longer appropriate based on experiences during Operation Desert Storm, where everyone in the theater of operation was at risk.
On Jan. 24, 2013, SECDEF Leon Panetta rescinded the rule that restricted women from serving in combat units and directed the military services to review their occupational standards and assignment policies and to make recommendations for opening all combat roles to women no later than Jan. 1, 2016.
On March 10, 2016, SECDEF Ashton Carter announced that the services’ and Special Operations Command’s implementation plans for the integration of women into direct ground combat roles were approved.
To learn more about the experiences of Women in the U.S. Navy, go to NHHC’s website.