Female soldiers serving in the US Army will now be able to take up new positions in traditionally all-male units, as the Army formally opens combat-related roles to women, reported the Associated Press.
The AP reported that the policy change was announced earlier this year and is currently being tested in nine brigades before being expanded to the whole Army. The new policy opens approximately 14,000 jobs to female soldiers, loosening restrictions that were designed to keep them away from combat.
Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade had shown female soldiers fighting and dying in combat despite measures in the Pentagon's policy designed to keep them out of harm's way.
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According to Time, the collocation rules, which the policy repealed, kept women from serving in combat by "forbidding them to be assigned to units at the battalion level or below, or for them to be assigned to units that collocate with direct ground combat units (infantry, artillery, and tanks)."
"Women have served in our Army since the Revolutionary War and they have done phenomenal work and continue to do so today," Col. Val Keaveny Jr., commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, told the AP. "There is great talent and now we can have it in the headquarters of infantry, armor and cavalry."
New positions within combat units such as personnel, intelligence, logistics, signal corps, medical and chaplaincy will be opened to women, in addition to jobs as mechanics and rocket launcher crew members.
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Time noted that the opening of the new positions will give women a fairer shot by making them eligible for promotions. The "Ground Combat Exclusion Policy" is still in effect, though women soldiers may be attached to combat units.
Al Jazeera noted that 255,000 female soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving alongside their male counterparts. The Pentagon said that 144 women have been killed in the two wars, and 853 have been wounded. Around 30 percent of US Army jobs will continue to be restricted for men.
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Here is a video report from Al Jazeera, with female soldiers reacting to the policy change: