In 11 years of nonstop war, the front lines are often not clearly defined. In fact, 152 women in uniform have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But since 1994, women have been excluded from assignments in direct combat. Now, the Pentagon is lifting the nearly 20-year-old ban. It's a move that would open about 237,000 front line positions for females. Some are calling the decision a historic step toward gender equality in the U.S. armed forces.
"If you're going to be in a combat zone, you're going to be in a combat zone," explained Air Force veteran Paul Fiske. "Everything today seems to be, if you're deployed overseas especially is a combat zone."
Men and women serve, are wounded and die right next to each other, but some feel having women on the forefront of battle will become a distraction.
"I'm talking about totally being right in front of all the firing, and all the tanks, and all the aircraft and everything else. No. I am not in favor of that at this point, unless someone can prove me wrong," said Fiske.
Top military officials said the decision will not compromise military readiness and pledged the armed forces will not lower standards for service or physical fitness.
"That's my expert badge when I was in basic training, I shot expert," shared US Army veteran Vicki Steckel, adding that women should be allowed to fill any military role they chose. "We have to climb the ropes. We have to jump out of helicopters. We have to repel. We have to do the same training."
The lift means women can train in every aspect of the military, and could mean more promotions. Steckel said the decision is long overdue.
"I donned the uniform," she said. "I'm a soldier first and female second."
The military has until 2016 to decide what actions to take and to seek any exemptions with the ban's lift.