The Pentagon is taking a significant step in the direction of allowing women to fight in combat.  DOD officials say they're not going to assign women to infantry combat units, but they will change the rules and allow women to serve in support jobs closer to the front lines.

The rule change reflects the reality that over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are already dying in combat. Nearly 300,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and 144 have died in those conflicts. Hundreds more have been wounded.

DOD officials say women will still be barred from serving in infantry combat units, but the changes will open new positions to women that, until now, have been off limits.

They say women can fill as many as 14,000 jobs in combat support positions, including communications, intelligence and logistical positions. Typically, these jobs have not been made available to women in areas regarded as too close to combat situations.

The difficulty is the fluid nature of the insurgent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The lines of what are defined as "combat situations" change every day, and that often means all units could be exposed to combat, including units where women are allowed to serve.

The new rules will apply to all the military services, but they will have the greatest impact on the Army, given the large number of ground combat units it has.

via Pentagon to Lift Some Restrictions on Women in Combat - ABC News.

A year ago, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission recommended that the military lift the ban on women serving in combat units.

The advisory panel of current and retired military officers said that keeping women from serving in combat units was an obstacle to promotions and career advancement.

The new rules likely will not go into effect until the summer if Congress raises no objections to the changes.