Nightly News | January 23, 2013
>>> defense is expected to announce tomorrow that perhaps before the end of this year, women in the u.s. armed forces may begin serving in environments like this. [ gunfire ]
>> we're taking heavy fire from -- [ gunfire ]
>> that video, kunar province in afghanistan in '09 was actually shot by richard engel and his team. perhaps you heard his voice there. it shows infantry combat and this will be a sea change in the u.s. military policy. we should quickly add, it's a change many women in the u.s. military have been waiting for for many years. our pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski on duty from there tonight. jim, good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. tomorrow, defense secretary leon panetta will announce that he's lifting the ban that prevents female soldiers and marines from serving in direct combat ground combat roles. according to one senior defense official, this clears the way now for women to become combat infantry. for the past ten years, u.s. military women have served at the front lines in both iraq and afghanistan . but never allowed in direct ground combat roles. lifting the 20-year ban against women in combat will ultimately put them directly into the heat of battle. it opens some 237,000 combat-related positions to women . initially, women will be assigned to combat support roles, communications, logistics and as drivers. gradually, they'll work their way closer to battle as medics, corpsmen and manning artillery before they become combat infantry troops. despite the combat ban, women have paid the ultimate price of war. 152 u.s. military women have been killed in iraq and afghanistan . congresswoman tammy duckworth lost both her legs as an army combat helicopter pilot in iraq . she says lifting the ban will level the playing field for women .
>> it's more to make it to a general, for example, without a combat arms command at the brigade or the battalion level. and this will now allow women to have those -- some of that command time.
>> reporter: at first, women would have to volunteer for combat duty. and meet the same physical standards faced by men.
>> well, they have to. the standard doesn't change. just because they're a woman.
>> reporter: but is the military prepared for women in combat ?
>> there will be plenty of complaints about it. but i don't think it's going to have a negative effect on the actual strength of the force.
>> reporter: and are women ready for combat? just ask tammy duckworth .
>> well, i did lose my legs in a bar fight .
>> reporter: at this point, it's not clear just how many women will step forward and volunteer for combat. and it's not going to happen all at once. given the required changes in training and the regulations, actually, it could be two to three years before we see any women ready for ground combat, brian.
>> jim miklaszewski at the pentagon tonight. jim, thanks.