Military Warned to Maintain Readiness as Women Move Toward Combat

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"As commander in chief, I am absolutely confident that -- as with the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' -- the professionalism of our armed forces will ensure a smooth transition and keep our military the very best in the world," the president said. "Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love."

As for the challenges in integrating women into combat roles, Dempsey stressed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff wants a "critical mass" of women in the new roles, to serve as mentors and provide upward mobility. He also said that physical requirements won't be such a daunting challenge, and that it will be up to the service branches to justify any requirements that prevent women from serving.

"Physical standards seem to be the ones people focus on," Dempsey said, responding to a reporter's question. "We can figure that out. We figured out privacy."

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