The United States is set to reverse its ban on women serving in combat, joining only a handful of countries where females serve alongside men in direct combat positions. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, is expected to officially announce the policy change on Thursday in a move that will open up more than 230,000 jobs for female service members.
The U.S. will be joining the ranks of:
Australia: In 2011, the Australian government -- under Prime Minister Julia Gillard -- announced that women would be able to serve alongside their male counterparts in front-line combat roles. The change will be phased in over five years, allowing women to apply for positions in infantry, artillery and armored units.
Canada: In 1989, a tribunal appointed under the Canadian Human Rights Act ordered a full integration of women in the armed services. The only exception was submarine service, where the ban was eventually overturned in 2001.
Israel: The Caracal Battalion, which is composed of both men and women, was formed in 2000. Before its creation, women were barred from serving in direct combat in the Israel Defense Forces. As of 2009, about 70 percent of the battalion was female.
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New Zealand: New Zealand has no restrictions for women in the nation’s defense force.
Norway: There are no limitations on combat operations in the Norwegian military. In fact, Norway was the first NATO member to employ women on submarines.