What Took So Long?

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ISAF photo

Army 1st Lt. Brittany Clark leads her patrol in a 2011 route clearance mission in Afghanistan, a role formerly limited to men.

Thursday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the military would be lifting the policy preventing women from filling billets in units tasked with direct combat.

As an Afghanistan veteran, I found myself particularly apathetic to the news—those of us who have served know this is an anti-climactic adjustment that comes so late that it shows a tremendous lag in upper-level decision making.

The military used to be at the forefront of progress—the U.S. armed forces were racially integrated five years before the landmark court decision Brown v Board of Education—but in the last two decades, I wonder if policy is influencing front lines, or simply following suit decades later?

Read the full story on TIME Ideas.