Wow: Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta just officially removed the longstanding military ban on women in combat, which opens up "hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs," according to the AP.
Military leaders have been debating whether to let women fight on the front lines for quite some time; things got particularly heated after Panetta opened about 14,500 combat positions to women last year. Advocates said banning women from elite combat roles — which are often more prestigious and lead to promotions — was discriminatory and particularly unfair since many women were already filling those roles anyway without recognition. Critics basically said women were too emotionally and physically wimpy and would bring down the army's manliness quotient.
The momentous decision — Panetta wasn't expected to make this move so quickly — was recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and overturns a 1994 rule that barred women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. The military has until January 2016 to seek "special exceptions" if they believe any positions must remain closed to women. Some jobs may open as soon as this year; the AP reports that Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force assessments may take longer.
Given that most men can't handle the physical (and emotional) requirements for combat roles either, there's absolutely no reason why qualified women shouldn't be able to sign up. This is a huge day for the women who serve our country.