Joint Chiefs Chairman: ‘We Can Figure Out Privacy’ for Young Ladies in Frontline Combat, Including in Navy SEALS and Delta Force

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 26, 2013 | 10:10am EST


Gen. Martin Dempsey, on left, at his swearing in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Sept. 30, 2011. (White House photo/Pete Souza)

( - Gen. Martin Dempsey, President Obama’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that the U.S. military could figure out ways to preserve the privacy of young ladies serving in frontline combat units, including special forces combat units such as the Navy Seals and the U.S. Army’s Delta Force.

At the Pentagon press briefing on Thursday at which Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed a directive lifting the military’s ban on putting women in frontline ground combat units, a reporter asked Dempsey: “What about privacy?”

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“We can figure out privacy. We've figured out privacy right from the start,” said Dempsey. “By the way, Desert Shield, or Desert Storm/Desert Shield, 1991, we did live in that kind of environment where we were essentially somewhat nomadic in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and eventually Iraq. And we figured out privacy. We can figure out privacy.”

Secretary Panetta then pointed out: “The fact is that women are now in submarines. And that was one of the concerns at the time. But the fact is that they have re-jiggered the submarines to be able to adapt to that kind of situation. Women are fighter pilots now. So Air Force, Navy have moved in that direction. The Marines and the Army, obviously, are going to move in the same direction. They're going to be, you know, there will have to be some adjustments in some situations.  But, again, based on the experience that we already have, I think we can meet those challenges.

A short while later, a reporter asked Gen. Dempsey: “What is your personal opinion as to whether women may be able to serve in special operations forces, especially those such as Navy SEALs or Delta Force?”

Gen. Dempsey indicated he believed that women would be able to meet the standards to serve in the SEALs and Delta Force and that privacy would not be an issue there.

“Yeah, when you look back at what I've said since I was the chief staff of the Army, what General Odierno has said, General Amos has said, I think we all believe that there will be women who can meet those standards,” said Gen. Dempsey about the SEALs and Delta Force.

“The other part of the equation, of course, is in order to account for their safety and their success in those kinds of units, we got to have enough of them so that they have mentors and leaders above them,” said Gen. Dempsey. “You know, you wouldn't want to take one woman who can meet a standard and put her in a particular unit. You know, the issue there wouldn't be privacy. It would be, you know, where's her ability to have upward mobility and compete for command if she's one of one? So we have to, we do have to work both the standards and the kind of the critical mass, if you will, to make this work. But that's what, that's our commitment.”

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