The US has ended the military's ban imposed in 1994 on woman serving in front-line combat roles.
Up to 5,300 soldiers are to be made redundant from the Army in the summer as part of the latest round of cuts to the armed forces.
Major Phil Packer has taken the final steps of a 2012-mile walk, despite being told he would not walk again after being injured in Iraq.
Today, by moving to open more military positions - including ground combat units - to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens. This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today’s military. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 150 women who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan - patriots whose sacrifices show that valour knows no gender.
– President Barack Obama
Earlier today I called Secretary of Defence Panetta to express my strong support for this decision, which will strengthen our military, enhance our readiness, and be another step toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals of fairness and equality. I congratulate our military, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the rigour that they have brought to this process. As Commander in Chief, I am absolutely confident that - as with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ - the professionalism of our armed forces will ensure a smooth transition and keep our military the very best in the world.
Speaking at a press conference United States Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta has said that women are "an integral part of our ability to perform" military mission, he added that, "not everyone can be a combat soldier, but everyone should have the chance."
The Pentagon's move to lift a ban on women in front-line combat roles has been hailed by supporters as an historic step toward gender equality in America's armed forces after 11 years of non-stop war.
In a statement Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said:
The Department's goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.
President Barack Obama fully supports the Pentagon's decision to lift a ban on women serving in frontline combat roles, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Ahead of the Pentagon's formal announcement later today, Mr Carney told reporters Obama is "very pleased" with the decision and "fully supports this effort to expand opportunities for women."
Carney said the recommendation emerged from military commanders, although Obama had discussed it with Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and others.
The Pentagon has said that the decision to end the ban on women in the military serving in combat roles is to ensure unit readiness, cohesion, morale and to promote the best and most qualified people.
The US military has scrapped the 1994 policy which banned women from combat roles according to a Pentagon statement.
The White House has said that President Obama strongly supports the decision.
The US army is to lift a ban on woman engaging in front-line combat, the US Defence Secretary is expected to announce today.
In the UK, women are currently banned from close-combat roles.
They allowed to undertake posts in areas such as logistics, artillery and engineering, but they cannot join the infantry or serve in small tactical combat arms teams where they are required to be in close contact with and kill the enemy face-to-face.
A Ministry of Defence review in 2010, concluded:
There was no evidence to show that a change in current policy would be beneficial or risk-free, and so a decision was made to take a precautionary approach and maintain the current position.
Senior US defence officials have said that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is lifting the ban on women serving in combat roles.
Other countries that allow women to take part in front-line fighting include Israel, Italy and Norway and New Zealand.
The Israeli Defence Force says it has put great effort to ensure there is gender equality in the field.
Anu Bhagwati, a former marine captain and head of the Service Women's Action Network, has welcomed the "historic" decision to lift the US military's ban on women serving in combat roles.
She said her decision to leave the Marine Corps in 2004 was partly due to the existing combat exclusion policy.
I know countless women whose careers have been stunted by combat exclusion in all the branches.
The decision to lift the US military's ban on women serving in combat roles will overturn a 1994 policy preventing women from serving in small front-line combat units.
The move would have to implemented by 2016 and the military will have until May 2015 to submit a plan on how they will comply, US officials said.
Individual military services would have to seek exemptions if they believe some combat roles should remain closed to women.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a suit in November seeking to force the Pentagon to end the ban on women in combat, have welcomed the planned move.