Change has come to the U.S. military. First, by stopping the don't-ask-don't-tell policy and stopping discrimination based on sexual orientation and now allowing women to serve in combat roles, ending years of gender discrimination among our fighting forces.
In 1994, the Pentagon first formally prohibited women from infantry, artillery and armor roles. In January of 2013, the Joint Chiefs agreed that the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service," and express their feelings to Panetta via letter.
The recent rule change from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta may have to do, at least in part, with the fact that despite a prohibition against women on the front lines, females have served in combat roles in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 100 females have been killed in the protracted wars and more than 800 have been injured.
The Pentagon has set a target date of 2016 for the end of gender discrimination in the military, but the change is projected to be implemented much more quickly.
The defense department has found itself defending various gender discrimination lawsuits as its policy on women in combat roles led to missed promotions and lack of recognition of the roles some women were playing in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Serving in combat roles are often seen as cornerstones to career advancement within the military; disallowing women to serve in these roles took away opportunities for promotion and advancement that goes along with those experiences.
Source: The New York Times, "Pentagon Is Set to Lift Combat Ban for Women," January 23, 2012