All roles in the British armed forces, including the Royal Marines and elite special forces Special Air Service, known as the SAS, are now open to women, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced Thursday.
Starting Thursday, women across the British armed forces can begin moving into infantry jobs, and new potential recruits can apply for the positions in December.
Women can also start to apply to join the Royal Marines and some will be able to start the pre-selection process, kicking off sometime early next year. If they pass selection, they can move onto the commando course in Lympstone, a press release said.
The opening of the elite Royal Marines and infantry also paves a path for women wishing to join the ranks of the U.K.’s special forces known as the SAS.
“Women have led the way with exemplary service in the armed forces for over 100 years, working in a variety of specialist and vital roles,” Williamson said in a press release. “So I am delighted that from today, for the first time in its history, our armed forces will be determined by ability alone and not gender.”
The U.K. has been pushing gender integration into the combat arms since 2016 when it lifted the ban on women serving in combat job fields.
In November 2016, the Royal Armoured Corps was the first combat field to allow women into its ranks. The Royal Marines are the last field in the Royal Navy to begin to accept women, according to a press release.
“The Royal Marines have welcomed the opportunity for women to serve in ground close combat roles and I am proud that we are now in a position to accept women on to our Royal Marines training courses from next year,” Maj. Gen. Charlie Stickland, commandant general Royal Marines, said in a press release.
Women have already been serving in supporting roles that have assisted the Royal Marines, this is the first time they’ll be able to join the ranks in a combat function.
“We recognise people for their ability, not their gender, so any person with the right skills to be a Commando is welcome in the Royal Marines,” Strickland said in a press release.
“There will be absolutely no changes to the Commando standards, training will be the same for men and women, so I wholeheartedly encourage any interested men or women to give it a go; it’s simply about a State of Mind,” he added.