WOMEN
06/18/2013 12:33 pm ET

Women In Combat: Pentagon To Train Women As Army Rangers And Navy SEALS By 2016

AP

Thirty-three years after the first women graduated from West Point and almost a full year since the introduction of body-specific armor for female soldiers, comes another huge step forward for military women: inclusion in special ops forces.

On Monday, senior defense officials announced that plans are in place to allow women to serve in elite forces like the Army Rangers and Navy SEALS. Statements from these branches on how they will handle this transition are expected Tuesday, but an unnamed official told the New York Times that women may be allowed to enter Ranger School by spring 2015 and SEALS training by 2016.

These positions have been closed to women due to the 1994 Combat Exclusion Rule, which prevented women from serving in "assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground." In January 2013, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rescinded this rule.

According to the Associated Press, women make up around 14 percent of active American military personnel and more than 280,000 military women have been deployed to the Middle East in connection with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A February 2013 poll found that 75 percent of voters were in favor of women fighting on the front lines who wanted to do so. Now more of those women may get their chance.

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