The US military is expanding the number of jobs available to female soldiers that would potentially put them on the frontlines.
The Pentagon said it will open more than 14,000 combat-related roles to women serving in the army, breaking with the long-held policy of excluding them from most jobs that would potentially put them in harm's way.
The expansion is meant to help US women achieve promotion to the military’s highest ranks.
Rights advocates and other supporters of the change say female soldiers essentially have been serving in combat-related roles for years, even if they are nominally removed from it.
"There are no frontlines anymore. If you go all the way back to the civil war, you had a frontline and clear back line. You don't have that anymore because it's an asymetric fight. Everybody at any moment could be in danger," Captain Kelly Hasselman said.
Jobs now opening to women troops include field surgeon, intelligence sergeant and tank mechanic. The Pentagon is still reviewing whether to allow women to participate in direct combat roles.
Roughly 255,000 female soldiers have been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, using the same weapons as their male counterparts and risking their lives on the frontlines by taking part in patrols.
Philip Ewing editor of online magazine military.com said: "There is a change of how practical the decision will be, as the USA will moving out of Afghanistan at the end of next year, so how many will get the chance to serve on the frontline."
"Many women want to make a career out of serving, so many women will respond positively by this news," said Ewing.
The Pentagon says that 144 women have been killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, while 853 have been wounded.
Women make up about 14 per cent of the US armed services. About 30 per cent of US army jobs will remain restricted to men, according to the Army Times.
The Pentagon says it is committed to clearing all barriers for all soldiers to rise in the ranks. While this policy change gives women more opportunity, many female soldiers say their careers can only go so far.
"I think it's harder to be taken seriously (as a female in the army), especially when you have subordinates who have been deployed. They kind of question your competence," Sergeant Amanda Rubio said.
The US defence department plans to assess the new policy in six months.
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|William A. Cook|