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Panetta to Open Combat Roles to Women

Associated Press

Panetta to Open Combat Roles to Women

CREATED Jan. 23, 2013

OSHKOSH, WI-- In a landmark decision, women will soon be allowed in combat in the U.S. military.

Defense secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make the official annoucement  Thursday that would clear the way for women to apply for combat specialities and units.

Recently, the Pentagon changed their policy to allow women on submarines. Now, this latest announcement to allow women on the ground as infantry soldiers is the Pentagon's newest move to better integrate women into the military.

"She joined because she wanted to make a difference and she wanted to if necessary be in combat," said Michelle Kennedy.

Kennedy's daughter is an Oshkosh native in the Air Force. She is one of thousands of women in the U.S. military who could now be fighting in a hot zone. It's a big decision, expected to open more than 200,000 jobs to women serving in the military like Iraq war veteran Tracy Hall from the Waupaca area.

"We did encounter IEDs and stuff like that and I do believe because of the proper training I had my brothers in arm did not have any doubt in my ability to perform the tasks that were needed" said Hall.

But some iside the services, and on Capitol Hill say changes like this would make ground troops less effective.

"That's been proved in study after study just as a matter of nature. Upper body strength, and physical movement and speed and endurance and so forth," said Representative Tom Cotton, (R) Arkansas.

But not all men agree. Marshall Falk served in the U.S. Air Force and his daughter was in the army.

"If that woman can do the same thing as everyone else I don't have a problem with it. I wouldn't have a problem serving alongside a woman" said Falk.

Each branch of the military will now assess each role and unit to determine which are feasible for integrating women.

Women are expected to be serving in their new roles in 2016.

There could be some exceptions in some special operations forces, for instance the Navy SEALS which could remain male only.