On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced plans to lift a ban on women in combat that has been in place since 1994. News outlets like the Associated Press and the Washington Post called the move "groundbreaking" and "a watershed policy decision" that could open up hundreds of thousands of front-line positions to women -- including, potentially, jobs in elite commando units.
While front lines may never be the same, the announcement was just the latest step in a gradual loosening of restrictions on American women at war: the Pentagon announced last year that it would open about 14,000 combat-related positions to women (though thousands of others jobs were still off-limits), and women have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- wars in which the line between combat and non-combat situations was often blurry. Here's a look at some of the women who have been paving the way for the female fighters to come.
Above, soldiers play poker at their base in Ramadi, Iraq in March 2005.