The U.S. military says that within three years, it will put women in key combat positions from which they once were excluded.
Officials from all four branches of the U.S. military gathered at the Pentagon Tuesday to announce a timeline for changes to regulations banning women from more than 200,000 positions.
A senior Pentagon official at the gathering, Juliet Beyler, called the announcement a milestone. She said the Pentagon's goal is to ensure the U.S. military mission is met with the most capable people, regardless of gender.
A top U.S. general, Bennet Sacolick, said cultural, social and behavioral concerns may be bigger hurdles than physical fitness requirements for women seeking to move into special operations units. He said the key characteristic of today's special operations people is "intellect."
The general said the days of "Rambo" are over, a reference to the movie series depicting a U.S. war hero who relies much on brute strength.
The U.S. Marines already maintain new gender-neutral physical tests, and the Army will have new standards by 2015 that will allow women to be part of its elite Ranger regiment.
American women have served in combat roles for years, and hundreds have been killed on the front lines. But women have been excluded from key positions in areas including special operations and infantry.