IN A long overdue move, the U.S. military will now open combat positions to women. Not all positions will be immediately gender neutral, but the changing of a culture has begun, even if the full implementation will take years.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the decision today.

Via CNN:

The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, CNN has learned. Multiple officials confirm to CNN that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement tomorrow and notify Congress of the planned change in policy.

“We will eliminate the policy of “˜no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,'” a senior defense official says.

[…] “It will take awhile to work out the mechanics in some cases. We expect some jobs to open quickly, by the end of this year. Others, like Special Operations Forces and Infantry, may take longer,” a senior defense official explains. Panetta is setting the goal of January 2016 for all assessments to be complete and women integrated as much as possible.

This is another blow to the Republican right, who have fought hard to keep women out of combat positions.

This is about codifying actual duties and the careers of female soldiers in policy, which is why it’s getting headlines and rightfully so. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is but one public reminder that females have been in harm’s way for many years, with female soldiers serving in forward combat zones for a very long time.

This policy will include, most importantly, being able to advance to higher military rank and positions that require combat to be considered for them, advancing women’s opportunities and equality. It will eventually open up tens of thousands of jobs for women as well. It’s about intelligence work, too, which has been out of bounds for women in many instances of our Armed Forces as well.

It’s another act for women’s equality by the Obama administration.