Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced last week he was ending all remaining barriers to women serving in any role within the armed forces.
Females who meet the physical standards and other entry requirements for the infantry, armor, artillery, and special operations forces can try out for those fields, just like men.
Cartier's decision ends decades of gender inequality in the military, where women have slowly moved into previously closed fields since the first large-scale inclusion of females in uniform during World War II.
In 2013, Carter's predecessor, Leon Panetta, announced an end to the "combat exclusion rule" that kept women from direct combat occupational specialties. But Panetta gave each of the services three years to study how each would fully integrate women or to ask for an exception continuing restrictions on women from entering certain fields.
The U.S. Marine Corps had asked the secretary of the Navy for an exemption to continue barring women from its infantry and special operations forces. But Navy Secretary Ray Maybus denied the request. The commandant of the Marine Corps during the latter part of the study period was Gen. Joseph Dunford, who recently became the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the most senior military officer in the military.
The current commandant and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps have pledged to support the integration of women in all military roles.
One question the change brings to the forefront is whether women will now be required to register with the Selective Service System, a move that would subject women to a military draft if one is ordered by Congress.
Thirty years ago, a legal challenge to the male-only draft registration made it to the Supreme Court.
The majority opinion in the case, Rostker v. Goldberg, cited the purposeful exclusion of women from combat jobs as the primary reason that male-only registration did not violate the 5th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
A lawsuit challenging the male-only registration is now working its way through the federal court system. The 9th Circuit of Appeals will hear arguments in National Coalition for Men v. the Selective Service System Tuesday in Pasadena.