In a complete reversal of Pentagon policy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Thursday that all U.S. military combat positions would be available to women. The new combat roles open to women service members include opportunities in special operations and infantry units.
The current ban on these positions will officially be removed within 30 days. However, all of the branches of the military have until April 1 to fully comply with the new rules.
By expanding these combat positions to women, the Pentagon can better defend the nation because "in the 21st Century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest pool," Carter said, as per USA Today.
220,000 jobs, or roughly 10 percent of all military positions, are currently unavailable to women. The new policy would allow women to apply for those roles.
"As Commander in Chief, I know that this change, like others before it, will again make our military even stronger," according to a statement from President Obama in TIME.
All branches of the military are expected to comply with the order.
"The Marine Corps has received the secretary's decision and will immediately commence the process of further implementing the policy change, to include sharing plans and lessons learned with the other services," the service said in a statement to USA Today. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure the men and women who earn the title 'Marine' will be ready to fight and win."
Congressional leaders from both parties praised the policy change.
"It's about damn time," Representative Martha McSally, a Republican from Arizona, said in a statement to The Atlantic. "We are a country that looks at people as individuals, not groups. We select the best man for the job, even if it's a woman."
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Forced Committee, commended it as well.