By Chris Lawrence (CNN)-
The ban on women in combat - it's over.
The combat jobs - are open.
Pentagon officials confirm to CNN that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the formal announcement Thursday, clearing the way for women to apply for combat specialties and units.
The Navy opened submarines to women, and the first female officers joined their sub crews a few months ago:
"There is always going to be an aversion to change. And so the best way to deal with that is just to go and do my job like any officer would."
Dog handlers patrol war zones, searching for hidden bombs and in Afghanistan I followed a female engagement team of Marines, who went into the homes of Afghan women:
"And they're definitely a key player in getting information."
But in opening the infantry, the pentagon has left itself some wiggle room.
The services will have time to assess each job and unit, to see if it's feasible and how fast women could be integrated. A senior defense official says some - like special operations forces and perhaps some infantry units - can ask for exemptions to the rule.
And congress will have to notified of each job that opens up before it can take effect.
But some - inside the services and on capitol hill - say changes like this won't make ground troops more effective.
"To have women serving in the infantry could impair the mission's essential tasks in those units. That's been proved in study after study just as a matter of nature. Upper body strength, and physical movement and speed and endurance and so forth."
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