NEW ROLES: 20 Year Ban Dropped

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The U.S. military is dropping the 20-year ban excluding women from being in combat units.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation,” says Panetta.

But for women defending our nation hasn't included combat roles.

Dropping the ban now could open up 230,000 jobs to women.

“They are serving in a growing number of critical roles on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission,” says Panetta.

Panetta announced the change will be gradual and will be on a volunteer basis.

However, for some Iowans the news was a long time coming.

“I wasn`t real surprised by the announcement, because ever since they put the ban in place that`s been talked about if that is the right thing to do or not,” says Former Brigadier General Jodi Tymeson.

Tymeson was the first woman to become brigadier general in the Iowa National Guard and says women are already making great sacrifices for our country and have already been in combat situations, this just makes it official.

“There`s been opportunity for women opening up over the last few years and this is just one more step and I think besides it being a step for women it`s a step for the military overall,” says Tymeson.

The announcement comes with strict regulations, requiring women to meet the same physical standards men do for the same positions, positions Tymeson says should be filled by the best possible candidate regardless of their gender.

“Certainly the ultimate goal is the best military readiness, and that`s whether you`re male or female, making sure there is the best trained, best qualified person in each position,” says Tymeson.

Out of the 5,200 Americans lost in hostile fire in both Afghanistan and Iraq, 100 have been women.

Panetta has said this change won't happen right away but has assessments planned to start to integrate women into these positions.  The goal is to have women in combat roles by 2016.