Panetta to Allow Women in Combat Defense chief is lifting the military's ban By John Johnson, Newser Staff Posted Jan 23, 2013 2:33 PM CST 118 comments Comments In a May 9, 2012 photo, Capt. Sara Rodriguez, 26, of the 101st Airborne Division trains at Fort Campbell, Ky. (AP Photo/Kristin M. Hall) (Newser) – Defense chief Leon Panetta is scrapping the military's ban on women in combat roles. The AP has the early scoop, saying the decision opens up hundreds of thousands of positions in front-line and commando units. Panetta is expected to announce the decision tomorrow, and the military branches have until May 15 to present their plans on how to implement it. Some of the positions could open this year. The branches have until 2016 to make their case that particular posts be off limits. The Pentagon already has about 14,000 combat positions open to women, mostly in the Army, but a 1994 rule barred female troops from what the AP calls "smaller ground combat units." Panetta's decision overturns that 1994 rule. Female troops have sued the Pentagon for the right to fight, though not all agree it's the right move.