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Previously, women could not be formally assigned to those battalion-level jobs. But in the past decade the necessities of war propelled women into jobs such as medics, military police and intelligence officers, and they were sometimes attached – but not formally assigned – to battalions.

So while a woman couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured. The new rules will formally allow women to work in those jobs at the battalion level.

The new rules don’t open up the Navy SEALs or the Army Delta Force to women, but some defense officials have said the military may eventually consider that.