The Pentagon has made a landmark decision to let female soldiers on the frontline.
Almost 200,000 women serve in the US army but, like British female soldiers, they are formally banned from serving in many combat roles.
US defence secretary Leon Panetta is expected to formally announce the groundbreaking move today, overturning a 1994 ruling banning women from direct ground combat for five reasons: "berthing and privacy, co-location, physically demanding tasks, long-range reconnaissance and special operations forces."
The ruling will see 230,000 jobs made available to women in the US army, beginning next year.
This is an historic step for equality and for recognising the role women have, and will continue to play, in the defense of our nation. - US senator Patty Murray
"From the streets of Iraqi cities to rural villages in Afghanistan, time and again women have proven capable of serving honourably and bravely," added Murray, who chairs the Senate veterans' affairs committee and is a member of the defense appropriations subcommittee. "In fact, it's important to remember that in recent wars that lacked any true frontlines, thousands of women already spent their days in combat situations serving side-by-side with their fellow male service members."
The UK dismissed plans to reverse the military ban on women in 2010, on the basis that allowing mixed gender groups in close combat situations could have "far-reaching and grave consequences". The Ministry of Defence said that in intense battle situations, "team cohesion becomes of much greater importance" and it was suggested that male soldiers may become too concerned with protecting a wounded female colleague, at risk to their own lives.
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Words: Anna Pollitt. Images: Rex Features