The U.S. military announced Thursday that it was permitting servicewomen to fill over 14,000 positions previously unavailable to women, some of which will bring female soldiers closer to the frontlines of combat.
The policy changes are aimed to reflect the realities of women's role in the military after the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan
Women, however, will still be barred from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces.
The 14,000 job opportunities for women are primarily in the Army and the Marine Corps. Ninety-nine percent of positions in the Air Force and 88 percent of active-duty jobs in the Navy were already available to women before Thursday's announcement.
There are currently 205,000 women serving in the 1.4 million member active-duty U.S. military.
The largest policy change is the Pentagon's decision to remove a 1994 rule that prohibited women from jobs that take place near combat units, which include positions such as tank mechanic and field artillery radar operator.
As a result of this change, more than 13,000 jobs in the Army will be available to women for the first time.
The military also announced an "exceptions to policy" change that will permit women in the Army, Navy and Marines to fill select positions at the battalion level.
This new rule overrides a 1994 policy that forbade women from holding jobs in fields such as intelligence, communications and logistics in units smaller than a brigade.
Brigades typically are formed by 2,5000-to-4,000 soldiers while battalions are typically populated by less than 1,200 military personnel.
This second change opens up nearly 1,200 positions to women.
The military submitted the report Thursday at the request of Congress. Under the law, the new policies will not go into effect until Congress has been in continuous session for 30 days, which should happen later this spring.
In the meantime, Congress could delay or block the changes from coming into effect
Military officials said that they would study the performance of women in these new roles, which could lead to the possibility of women serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces in the future.
"This is the beginning, not the end, " Principal Director for Military Personnel Policy Maj. Gen. Gary Patton said at a press conference Thursday.
The report also said the military was working to establish gender-neutral job standards for all positions.
"Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in a statement accompanying the release of the report. "Through their courage, sacrifice, patriotism and great skill, women have proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles on and off the battlefield.
"We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so."