A federal lawsuit challenges the Pentagon's longstanding policy barring women from serving in direct combat positions. Some questions and answers:
Q: What is the current policy?
A: The 1994 policy bars women from being assigned to ground combat units, which are smaller and considered more dangerous since they are often in the thick of battle for longer periods of time than the other units.
Q: What are the arguments for letting women fight?
A: Supporters say women are already being wounded or killed in war, and the policy keeps them from being recognized for their battleground experience, which could lead to promotions and higher pay.
Q: What do opponents say?
A: Opponents question whether women are physically capable of combat.
The first two women to volunteer for the Marine Corps' grueling 13-week infantry training course at its base in Quantico, Va., were unable to complete it. The Corps will open the course again to female volunteers in January.
Q: What does the military's top brass say?
A: Military leaders want to make sure lifting gender-based barriers would not disrupt the cohesion of the smaller combat ground units and military operations.
Q: How close do women get to the front lines?
A: The blurred front lines of modern warfare, with suicide bombs and sniper attacks, have put more women in combat situations. More than 144 female troops have been killed and more than 860 have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Associated Press