The Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles last month, opening thousands of new positions up to women in the military. Although this progress was good news for many, some are now expressing doubts about whether women have enough physical strength to take on certain positions, USA Today reports. 

Military creates “gender neutral” physical test
The question of “are they physically strong enough?” for the roles is being answered by a new, “gender neutral” test that is designed to determine whether all members of the military, women included, are fit to serve in front line positions.

“We’re not going to just throw open the doors and say, ‘OK, go at it,'” Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, told the news outlet. “We’re doing this responsibly.”

Milstead added that “if a woman can do it, then we’re all for it,” but said the military just needs to make sure these troops can perform at the same physical level as men.

The new test will gauge how women perform under certain circumstances, like carrying 40-pound tank shells, loading them into main guns, for instance. Other challenges may bring up issues of subjectivity – how far should troops be required to walk with a 100-pound load to pass the test? What height should he or she be able to clear?

Milstead emphasizes the consideration he and his colleagues are taking to ensure fairness in the testing while building the strongest possible military. 

“I think we are going to be challenged every step of the way,” Milstead told the publication. “There will be people who question: Why do you have that standard?”

Obama expresses support for women in combat
In an interview with CBS’ Scott Pelley on CBS Evening News Sunday, President Obama pointed out that women already are serving in combat.

“They may not get treated like they’re in combat, but when they’re in theater, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they are vulnerable, they are wounded, and they’ve been killed,” Obama said. “They have carried out their jobs with extraordinary patriotism and distinction.”

“I mean, extraordinary women in uniform, who can do everything a man can and more,” he added.

The lift on the ban is as much about the physical strength of the military as it is about gender equality in the workplace. It could open up as many as 230,000 positions to women across all services, allowing them opportunities for career advancement that were once closed.