US Ends Ban on Women in CombatWorld | January 25, 2013, Friday // 06:58| views
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the military's ban on women serving in combat roles, potentially opening hundreds of thousands of frontline positions to women.
The ruling, officially announced on Thursday, overturns a 1994 rule barring women from small ground-combat units.
"Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proving their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans," Panetta said at a Pentagon press conference.
"I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability and qualifications and on performance," said Panetta.
Military chiefs will be asked to report back to Panetta by 15 May on their initial plans to implement the new policy.
A senior defence official said about 237,000 jobs would be newly open to women "who can meet the standards".
President Barack Obama said: "This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today's military.
"Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 150 women who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan - patriots whose sacrifices show that valour knows no gender."
Panetta hopes to have the process complete by 2016.
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