Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued an order on Wednesday removing the military's ban on women in combat roles, according to The Associated Press.


Panetta's order overturns a 1994 rule barring women from combat roles in the military and directs military officials to begin crafting a plan to fully integrate all of the jobs currently available.

The military loosened some rules on women in combat last February, saying an additional 14,000 jobs in the Army and Marine Corps were being opened up to women, but not all.

Wednesday's order should do exactly that, the AP noted, opening an additional 230,000 jobs -- including special forces roles -- that were not previously available to women. Some of the jobs could be available later this year.

"We are thrilled to hear Secretary Panetta’s announcement today recognizing that qualified women will have the same chance to distinguish themselves in combat as their brothers-in-arms, which they actually already have been doing with valor and distinction," American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ariela Migdal said in prepared text. "But we welcome this statement with cautious optimism, as we hope that it will be implemented fairly and quickly so that servicewomen can receive the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."

The Department of Defense says that over 214,000 women -- about about 14.6 percent of America's soldiers -- are currently serving across all branches of the military.

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