WASHINGTON (AP) — Ash Carter, who as Secretary of Defense in the last two years of the Obama administration opened up military combat roles to women and ended a ban on transgender people to serve in the military, died at age 68.
Carter died after suffering a heart attack Monday night, according to a statement released Tuesday by Douglas Elmendorf, dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard University. Carter had served as director of the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Before Carter was named Secretary of the Defense Department, he served in President Barack Obama’s administration as a procurement officer and oversaw the department’s efforts to ship more than 24,000 ambush-protected vehicles against mines to Iraq and Afghanistan. At the time, thousands of American soldiers were maimed or killed by roadside bombs because there was not adequate protection in the vehicles they drove. Carter frequently mentioned the rapid development and acquisition of these vehicles as one of his proudest accomplishments.
“At the peak of production, the United States shipped over 1,000 MRAPs per month to the theater. And there they saved lives,” Carter said at a 2012 ceremony marking the completion of vehicle production. “And you all know me, I would have driven one here today, if I could get it through the door.”
In December 2015, after three years of study and debate, Carter ordered the military to open all jobs to women, removing the last barriers that kept women from serving in combat, including commando positions. most dangerous and exhausting.
The following year, Carter ended the ban on transgender troops serving in the US military, saying it was the right thing to do.
“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should have the opportunity to compete to do so,” Carter said in June 2016, laying out a year-long plan to implement change. “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want obstacles unrelated to a person’s qualification to prevent us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission.”
Carter, a Philadelphia native, served as the 25th Secretary of Defense and “loved nothing more than spending time with the troops, making frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to visit U.S. forces with his wife Stephanie.” , his family said in a statement. “Carter has always put politics aside; he served the presidents of both parties for five administrations.