SAN DIEGO - With a stroke of a pen, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta Thursday overturned a 1994 policy that prohibited women from serving in combat.
"They have been fighting and dying together, and this policy needs to reflect that," Panetta said.
For the last 10 years, women have been in combat as frontlines were virtually non-existent in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We've proven that women are up to the challenge," said former Marine 1st. Lt. Colleen Farrell, who was one of four women who filed suit in 2012 to get the policy changed.
However, not all agree.
Retired Navy SEAL Cmdr. Ryan Zinke, now a state senator in Montana, said, "Mixing male and female in frontline units will cause distractions, and I think the unfortunate consequence is that it could cost lives."
"If they can meet the fitness and other standards, then casualties on the battlefield will not be caused by female combat troops, but there are other things to consider," said Mitchell Hall, a retired Navy SEAL.
Hall doesn't think the elite combat unit is ready for such a change considering 75 percent of the men who try to be SEALs wash out of the program.
The service chiefs will have until May to submit their initial plans for implementation and have until January 2016 to state why they believe certain fields should remain off limits.