TODAY   |  January 24, 2013

Col. Jacobs: Ban lift on women ‘watershed moment’

For the past 10 years, women in the U.S. military have served at the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan but never as ground combat troops. That will soon change as a ban against women in combat is lifted. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports and retired Col. Jack Jacobs gives his take.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> will begin with a decision to lift the military's ban on women serving in cam bot. and jim has more on this. good morning to you.

>> good morning. this is a seismic shift in policy for the pentagon and the military certain to shake things up. while female troops have sometimes been drawn into combat on the ground and iraq and afghanistan , this is the first time they go to war as full-fledged combat infantry. for the past ten years, u.s. military women have served in the front lines in both iraq and afghanistan , but never as ground combat troops. lifting the 20 year ban against women in combat will ultimately put them directly into the heat of battle, opening more than 230,000 ground combat jobs to women . they'll gradually work their way through training to become combat infantry troops and could even serve in special operations forces . but is the military prepared for women in combat ?

>> my personal opinion, no, women should not be allowed in the infantry unit. there is men who have extremely hard time physically and emotionally in infantry unit.

>> over a decade of war in iraq and afghanistan with no clear battle line , female soldiers and marines were caught up in the fight. 152 women were killed and more than 800 wounded.

>> congressman tammy duckworth lost both her legs as army helicopter pilot in iraq . she says lifting the ban will level the playing field for women .

>> it's hard to make it to a general without a combat arms command at the brigade or battalion level and this will allow women to have some of that command time.

>> women have to volunteer for combat duty and meet the said physical standards as men.

>> the secretary of statandard doesn't cha nge just because they're women .

>> i lost my leg in a bar fight -- i'm pretty sure i lost my leg in combat.

>> they don't know how many women will volunteer and there could be growing pains and does not happen overnight. it could take two to three years before women are fully trained and combat qualified. they probably wouldn't go into combat anytime soon, primarily because that would be after the combat mission for the u.s. is over in afghanistan , savannah.

>> i'll take it. no problem. honored for the highest combat acti action. he's now an nbc analyst, good to see you. as he mention, women have been serving for years putting their lives on the line. does this simply formalize it or is it a watershed moment?

>> no. i think it's a watershed moment because the policy was they could never be on front line units. the irony is the policy of keeping them out of front line units in afghanistan and particularly iraq caused injuries we had in units because we had them in non-combat units and truck drivers and those people got hurt by ieds.

>> what do you think the reaction is among the rank and file . men on the front lines now.

>> you're already starting to hear the mans and groans saying this is the end of the military as we know it.

>> when it was integrated with women 20 and 30 years ago, it turned out not to be the case and actually strengthened the organization.

>> one of the things people worry about is it will create a double standard when it comes to training? do you think that's appropriate?

>> that's a responsibility of leadership. there's no reason why men and women can't maintain the high standard of physical fitness and making sure they do is a part of leadership.

>>> let me ask you about the band of brothers , you know all too well men in combat say they fight to protect the lives of the men they are serving with. let me read you what the former commandant of the army war college wrote about this. ground leaders and former combat leaders agree the precious and indefinable band of brothers effect so essential to winning in close combat would be irreparably compromised with mixed gender infantry squads. how do you feel about that?

>> i think it's already been disproved because operating bases have been attacked and women fought alongside men. when people are trying ardently to kill you, it really doesn't matter who is on your left or right as long as they're doing their job. we fight to accomplish the mission. we fight for the country and most of all, we fight for each other.

>> congress will have the final say on this. what do you think the reaction there will be.

>> they will also be negative about it. this is interesting, panetta is leaving this legacy for hagel to pick up and we will hear plenty about it when hagel gets grilled by the senate. i think hagel has no answer at the moment because it's a question, lifting the ban, im imming it. it's one thing to implement the ban and something else to make it work. you can bet the senate will ask hagel , how will you make it work, senator and he won't have an answer.

>> by that time hopefully he