The U.S. Department of Defense says it will slowly incorporate women into the front lines.
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -
Women in the military is nothing new, but Thursday's announcement by the Pentagon has reversed Defense Department policy, allowing them on the front lines.
Women are already serving on the front lines overseas despite a ban on combat. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters, "The time has come for our policies to recognize that reality."
"They're fighting and dying together and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality," he said.
Panetta is expected to leave his post as Secretary of Defense some time in February. This move is likely his last major decision while in power.
Lieutenant Ashley Hanson of Sioux City's 185th Air Refueling Wing is familiar with serving overseas.
"I've volunteered four times, been over twice, and that was on my own accord," said Hanson.
She went to Saudi Arabia in 2008 and in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. She is now training to become a pilot.
"As part of security forces, male dominated career field, I've been overseas, and volunteered, so, that's all I've ever known," said Hanson.
As the news of the announcement making its way through the wing, it doesn't come as that much of a shock to her or Master Sergeant Dan Roupe. He says it's the way that the Air Force has been doing business for nearly 20 years.
"It's something that's been coming for a long time," said Roupe. "So, it's something that they've been talking about since the first Gulf War."
At this point, Roupe doesn't think it's going to affect recruiting. Experts anticipate the move to open up nearly a quarter of a million jobs, but Roupe says his numbers should stay about the same.
"Down here, we don't have those restrictions, so we're going to keep doing what we're doing," said Roupe.
Some believe that's been the case already, with reports of 150 women dying and nearly 1,000 wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The Air Force has always looked at it, since I joined the Air Force, is that women and men have to do the same thing. If you're in the job, you do the same as what the men do," said Roupe.
But folks shouldn't expect to have combat changing entirely overnight.
The Department of Defense says it wants to make the transition as successful as possible by ensuring the readiness, cohesion, and morale of its units and validating physical and mental performance standards to keep the best personnel in the best positions.
According to the defense department, women currently make up more than 15 percent of the military's active personnel, or more than 200,000.
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