US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrives at the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. AFP PHOTO/POOL/WIN MCNAMEE
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senior U. S. defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.
The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta's decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.