UNITED STATES -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the military ban on women serving in combat will be lifted.
The move opens the door for women to serve in thousands of front-line positions, and possibly elite commando jobs. It overturns a 1994 ruling prohibiting women from being assigned to combat units.
The military will have until January of 2016 to seek exemptions to any positions it believes should still be closed to women.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who was involved in securing a study that led to lifting the ban, released a statement which reads in part:
“This is a proud day for our country and the step we need to formally recognize the brave women who are already fighting and dying for our country shoulder-to-shoulder in uniform on the frontlines. This decision finally opens the door for more qualified women to excel in our military and advance their careers, and obtain all of the benefits they have earned."