Washington( CNN ) All U.S. military combat postures are being opened up to women, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday.
The decision allows women to fill about 220,000 undertakings that are now limited to men — including infantry, armor, reconnaissance and some special operations units.
“This means that as long as they are eligible and gratify the standards, females will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they are not able to before. They’ll be able to drive tanks, give orders, lead infantry soldiers into combat, ” Carter said at a news conference Thursday.
He said the decision doesn’t mean there will rapidly become an even gender divide in most combat postures. He said there are “physical changes on average” between men and women and that “thus far, we’ve only considered small numbers of women qualify to meet our high physical standards” for some units.
“Going forward, we shouldn’t be surprised if these small numbers are also reflected in areas like recruitment, voluntary assignment, retention, ” he said.
He acknowledged that “some service members, men and women, have a perception that integration would be pursued at a cost of combat effectiveness.”
However, Carter said: “The military have all along prided itself on being a meritocracy.”
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who hopes to become the first girl to win the race to the White House, praised the move.
“We’ve considered women in our armed forces demonstrate their valor and abilities , now our official policy is catching up and women who are qualified for these postures should be able to compete and win them, ” Clinton said at a New Hampshire event after the announcement.
Two females stimulated history in August by becoming the first female soldiers to complete the Army’s Ranger School, but they couldn’t apply to join the 75 th Ranger Regiment, an elite special operations force — until now.
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