Sept. 1 (UPI) — Every position in Britain’s close-combat Royal Air Force Regiment became open to women on Friday — becoming the country’s first military branch to do so.
The 2,000-person regiment is charged with patrolling bases and airfields, and opening the regiment to women makes the RAF the first branch of the British armed forces to make all its positions available to men and women.
“I think it’s a fantastic day. We are happy to be going first. The opportunities are there for females and we are now open for recruitment,” said Air Commandore Frank Clifford, the RAF Regiment’s Commandant General.
While acceptance of applications from potential female recruits began Friday, Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the change in July.
The move stems from a decision last year by then-Prime Minister David Cameron to lift the ban on women serving in British branches. His decision was unanimously approved by Britain’s service chiefs.
The decision “makes the Royal Air Force a more operationally effective force due to that additional diversity that the women bring. For women themselves, it’s an opportunity to engage in close-combat roles,” Group Capt. Wendy Rothery, RAF chief of Recruitment and Selection told Euronews.
The Royal Marines, which has tougher physical standards, and the Army’s infantry units will also expand the roles of female personnel in 2018.
The historic change in policy comes after two years of study of women’s capabilities during the rigor of combat, and overturns conceptions that the involvement of women in “kill the enemy” situations could undermine the British armed forces’ effectiveness.