WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- The Army approved requests from 22 women to become the first female infantry and armor unit officers, opening leadership and ground combat positions previously only available to men.
The Army said throughout the coming weeks 13 women will enter the armor branch and nine others will enter infantry as second lieutenants.
They will be the first females to serve in the traditionally all-male front-line combat branches since the U.S. Department of Defense opened all combat roles in the U.S. Armed Forces to women.
"We're not going to turn our back on 50 percent of the population," Army Secretary Patrick J. Murphy said. "We are opening up every occupation to women. I think that's pretty historic."
As the first step in the process, the women will commission at various officer accession programs. One will commission through Officer Candidate School, 14 will come through ROTC programs at various universities throughout the United States and seven will commission through West Point when they graduate May 17.
All 22 women will be required to complete remaining training requirements and standards equal to their male counterparts.
"Those standards were developed through years upon years of blood-soaked lessons learned in combat," Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said. "They are neither male nor female. They are combat standards."
The Army said it is also seeking applications from current female officers in other divisions interested in transferring to the infantry and armor branches.