The Pentagon is preparing to change the rules which will allow women to take combat roles.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday ended the 19 year old ban on women serving in combat.
He made the formal announcement Thursday afternoon at the Pentagon.
Panetta will change the rules that will allow women to serve in patrol positions, and possibly even as commando roles such as the Navy Seals.
The decision follows a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, where female service members have often been exposed to fighting, that led to over a thousand women wounded and more than 150 killed, "It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation" Said Panetta.
"Women have been fighting in these combat roles for a long time, they just haven't been getting the credit for it," Said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York.
Panetta's decision lifts a ban that's been in place since 1994, "Let me be clear, I'm not talking about reducing qualifications for the job. If they can meet the qualifications of the job, then they should have the right to serve," said Panetta.
He's directing the services to implement the change by May 15th.The military services will have until 2016 to allow women to join combat positions, or seek special exceptions, if they believe positions should remain closed to women.