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U.S. military soon to allow eligible women to serve in combat

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For the first time in decades, women in the U.S. military may soon be eligible to serve in combat, alongside the men. That official, public announcement is expected to come from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday.

After years of taking a back seat to men, women in the U.S. military are moving to the front...literally. An old policy that prohibited women from serving in ground combat units has been rescinded allowing eligible women to serve in combat, provided they meet all the same requirements as their male counterparts.

NewsChannel 10 spoke with a number of Amarillo residents Wednesday about the change and the general consensus was - "It's about time."

"Women are on the front line as firemen, as police officers," said Lisa Pedigo. "I think it's about time they're allowed to serve on the front lines in the military."

"It's all about the training," added another Amarillo local Connie Law. "I mean, a woman can hold a gun just as good as a man can and can have precision just as well as a man can."

"I don't think a woman will get in the way if she's trained properly, mentally she's going to be just as strong so I'm okay with that," said Amarillo resident Doug Lill. "I'm for it."

But some feel it's the 'physical' demand that women may not be able to handle, like Representative Tom Cotton, (R) Arkansas.

"To have women serving in the infantry could impair the mission's essential tasks in those units," said Rep. Cotton.

A thought process Doug Lill is worried also might be common right here at home.

"Especially here in the Bible Belt," said Lill. "We're here in a really conservative part of the country and it's going to be probably more difficult here."

Because despite taking a step in what many believe is the right direction, there are still always improvements we can make.

"It's my opinion that we still discriminate against women a little bit," added Lill.

"If a woman wants to," said Law. "And they are selected to do the things as a man, as a Navy Seal or front line infantry or whatnot, I don't see why not."

There may still be some specific military units that are exempt from the new policy.  But, each unit will have to justify their exemption and have it approved by the secretary of defense.

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