AUSTIN (KXAN) - WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said Wednesday.
The changes, set to be announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will not happen overnight.
The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said.
Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer.
The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.
The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.
Officials briefed The Associated Press on the changes on condition of anonymity so they could speak ahead of the official announcement.
There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.
A Round Rock Woman Filed Lawsuit Challenging the Ban
Major Mary Hegar honorably served for 12-years, flying most of those years as a combat search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.
Maj. Hegar received the Purple Heart after her helicopter and crew were shot down.
During the shoot-out on the ground, Hegar took a bullet.
Maj. Hegar said women are already placed in combat situations but lack the training due to the ban.
Now that the ban has been lifted, she believes women will be able to receive proper training with the men, earning their respect.
But not everyone agrees with the historic decision.
"I think apart of life is not getting what you want to do and I don't think one woman should dictate," said Ellen Warring, who is against women in combat.
"It's the fact that no matter what the situation in a combat roll, the male is going to be distracted because it's natural instinct to want to protect her," said Army veteran, Tim Hevrin.
Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while others including special forces, may take longer.
The military branches have until January 2016 to seek out any reasons why they believe any one position must remain closed to women.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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