Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that more than 130,000 combat positions will be open to women for the first time in US history.
“Every citizen who can meet the qualifications of service should have that opportunity,” said Panetta.
Officials say women already make up 14% of the US military, but now they'll be able to serve on the front lines for the first time.
In the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, dozens of women are commissioned to join the military after graduation each year.
“It takes a lot of courage and bravery. If a man or woman has enough courage to say, "Hey I want to do this for my country," then by all means,” said Samantha Oudie. Oudie is contracted to join the Army, where she hopes to become a chaplain.
The Pentagon officially lifted the ban on women in combat Thursday, which has sparked a lot of debate across the country, and on the Texas A&M campus.
“There are high intensity situations, and they're afraid a woman will interfere with a man's judgment in those situations,” said Matt Keller, member of the Corps of Cadets. “If a female can meet the standards for certain situations, especially in combat, stress situations. I think it’s fine that they're in.”
Many also question women's physical abilities.
“I don't know, I have mixed opinions,” said Johnny Gustafson. “It’s good and all for political correctness, but at the same time, I don't know if women can do 20 mile ruck marches with 50 pounds on their back and keep up with men.”
Gustafson is commissioned to join the navy after graduation. He says he hopes decision-makers don't lower the standards for gender equality, because lives are potentially on the line.
Samantha Oudie agrees that women should be held to the same standards. However, she doesn't think women should be limited because of their size of how strong they look.
“I believe that if someone is physically qualified to serve in the front lines, then they should if they want to,” said Oudie.
Authorities say some combat jobs may open up to women as soon as this year. Military service chiefs have until 2016 to make their case if they believe women should be excluded from more demanding and deadly positions, like Navy SEALS or the Army's Delta Force.
It’s unclear if allowing women in combat positions affects the draft.
"If the draft were ever reinstated, changing the rules would be a difficult proposition. The Supreme Court has ruled that because the Selective Service Act is aimed at creating a list of men who could be drafted for combat, American women aren't required to register upon turning 18 as all males are….If combat jobs open to women, Congress would have to decide what to do about that law," according to the Associated Press.
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