"In approximately 10 years of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 283 thousand female members have been deployed, over 800 have been wounded and over 130 have died. According to the Department of Defense (DOD), as of February 29, 2012, over 20,000 female members have or are serving Afghanistan and Iraq. (U.S. forces were out of Iraq as of Dec. 2011.) On numerous occasions women have been recognized for their heroism, two earning Silver Star medals. This outcome has resulted in a renewed interest in Congress, the Administration, and beyond in reviewing and possibly refining or redefining the role of women in the military. The expansion of roles for women in the armed forces has evolved over decades. Women are not precluded from serving in any military unit by law today. […] Women's right supporters contend that the exclusionary policy prevents women from gaining leadership positions and view expanding the roles of women as a matter of civil rights. Critics view such changes as potentially damaging to military readiness."
CRS Report for Congress, R42075