WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - It's one of the biggest changes to the U.S. military in our nation's history.
Soon, for the very first time, women will be able to actively serve in front-line combat.
Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he will lift a ban on women serving in combat.
In a news conference he said he believes women have become an integral part of the military's ability to succeed.
Panetta made his announcement with the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Martin Dempsey.
Panetta said not everyone can meet the qualifications to be a combat soldier but said everyone is entitled to the chance.
He said the qualifications will not be reduced, and with women playing a broader role, the military will be strengthened.
Local military personnel said they stand behind Panetta's decision to lift the ban.
"One thing in the military that you get used to is adapting to your environment no matter what it is and no matter what the challenges are," Major Paul Heslin with Purdue's ROTC said. "This just happens to be, or could be, a social challenge that command and leadership will provide guidance to the soldiers."
"They've always done the same thing as any other male officer or enlisted soldier," Noah Rausch with Purdue's ROTC program said. "In the past, they haven't been allowed in the combat branch. But in any other situation they've been in combat and they serve right alongside and they still go overseas."
Panetta's order will open 200,000 more jobs to women primarily in the Army and Marines.
The services will have until May to draw up a plan for opening all units to women and until the end of 2015 to actually implement it.
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