Women can now serve on the front lines and on the nation's newest attack submarines.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today he is lifting the ban on female service members in combat roles. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus then announced women will be able to serve on Virginia-class submarines.
The policy change for the submarine force opens up one of the few areas currently not available to women, Mabus said.
Newly commissioned female officers have already been selected, Mabus said, and they will begin reporting to attack submarines in fiscal year 2015. As the next step, enlisted women will soon be considered for sub duty, he added.
"The Navy has a long history of inclusion and integration, and I am proud we have achieved another important milestone during my tenure as secretary," he said.
The Navy lifted its ban on women serving aboard submarines in 2010 and started assigning female officers first to the larger, ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines. Mabus has said ever since then that women would serve on the smaller Virginia-class submarines because there should be no limits on their Navy careers.
The women who have been selected will start training this year. The training includes the 10-week officer basic course in Groton.
The Naval Submarine Base in Groton is the homeport to attack submarines only.
When Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, visited Groton last summer, he said the Navy's plans to continue bringing women aboard submarines were going very well so far and "now we're ready to move to the Virginia class."
Panetta's decision to eliminate the 1994 rule that bans women from serving in combat means that many other military jobs are now open to women. Women who serve in the Connecticut National Guard will be able to one day join the state's infantry battalion, the 102nd Infantry Regiment in New Haven.
Connecticut Guard units are categorized as either combat, combat support or combat service support. The 102nd Infantry is the only unit considered combat, said Col. John Whitford, spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard.
Whitford said he was waiting for more details from the defense department on when the make up of the battalion could change. The Pentagon is planning a phased-in approach that will take three years to fully implement.
Currently 600 men serve in the battalion. The unit deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and is not scheduled for another deployment, Whitford said.