JOHNSTON, Iowa--A new soldier, never before seen on the front lines of combat will soon become a reality. "It's huge for us historically,"said Colonel Hapgood of the Iowa National Guard.
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter declared women eligible for all combat positions in the military. "This means they will be able to contribute in ways never before," said Carter.
Colonel Hapgood says it will open up doors for Iowans that have been locked for over 175 years in the Iowa National Guard. Col. Hapgood said, "Incredibly exciting for us to open up hundreds of positions to qualified women across the state of Iowa."
Positions, like driving tanks, leading troops into battle, giving orders, paratroopers, firing mortars and Navy SEAL's, that have been exclusively for men.
Recruiting of women for combat positions will begin as soon as January 1, and must be in place by April. Col. Hapgood said, "We are not doing anything differently except actually approaching and recruiting people that we couldn't before for certain jobs."
Countries such as Canada and Sweden in 1989 along with Germany and New Zealand in 2001 have already allowed women in combat. Colonel Hapgood says it's one of the most groundbreaking military decisions in over six decades. "The desegregation of the military in late 1940's by President Truman, this is very akin to that," said Hapgood.
Military officials are urging opponents of the move to quickly fall in line. "There will be people that don't embrace this and they can either change or go find something else to do," said Col. Hapgood.
Words that give a national salute to a stronger, new look American military. Colonel Hapgood said, "The future is limitless, particularly for women in the state of Iowa with the Iowa National Guard. It not only makes us stronger as a military but certainly as a nation."
It is estimated that 220,000 jobs have now been opened up to women across the country. Women currently make up 16% of the Iowa National Guard.