LOVES PARK (WIFR) -- A huge victory for gender equality, the Pentagon announced Thursday, it's lifting the ban on women serving in combat. Military leaders hope this will help our nation win more wars.
Some military families aren’t on board with the policy change.
MJ Patten joined the Army National Guard three years ago knowing she might be sent overseas but never expected she could get thrown into combat.
"I was shocked and I was actually kind of upset because I didn't hear anything about if it was mandatory or a choice, And I don’t want it to be mandatory. I don't think we should have to fight if we don’t want to. Yes, we're in the military but it should be a choice," says MJ Patten, 21, from Loves Park.
Women will now have a choice to apply for the more than 200,000 front line positions that before had been limited to men. Sixteen thousand American women are currently deployed and exposed to combat.
“They're fighting and they're dying together, and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality they're fighting and they're dying together and the time has come for our policies to recognize that,” says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Patten and her mom aren't sure they're ready for her to see front line action.
"Nobody wants that knock on their door, for any of their children, male or female. Since she's my only daughter, my only child, I won't want her on the front lines," says Betty Patten, MJ’s mom.
Some opponents of the change say America isn't ready to see women killed or captured in action. Patten doesn't think gender should make a difference.
"Why not be ready for a woman to be captured, we're all the same, a soldier is a solider," says Patten.
More than 130 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, none from our area, and more than 800 have been wounded. Under the military's new rules, women have to meet the same physical requirements as men. All of these changes won't happen right away but will be phased in over the next three years. Chiefs from each branch of the military still have to decide if women will be allowed to join Special Forces, such as the Navy SEALs and Green Berets. It is still unclear if women will have to sign up for the draft.