When "G.I. Jane" hit the movie theaters in 1997 the audience saw the story of Lt. Jordan O’Neill, a woman,training to be a Navy SEAL. And they saw it for what it was fiction. But what was fiction 16 years ago will be fact in 2015.

In the first official step to bring women into the combat ranks, the Pentagon announced last week the first implementation will begin with two of the toughest arenas the Army Rangers and the Navy SEALs. But in truth, women have been on the front lines unofficially for years, particularly during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had ordered the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to move forward instituting gender neutral standards.

In the GI Jane film, Lt. Jordan’s entrée into the Navy SEALs was a one time experiment, a test to see if a woman could be tough enough for the special ops grueling training, training which routinely flunks out 60 percent of male applicants. One of the military leaders tells Jordan, “We’re trying to make it as painless as possible. Jordan played by actress Demi Moore --shoots back ”Thank you sir, but I expect a certain amount of pain. Treat me the same, no better no worse.”

There is one caveat to the new standards women may still be excluded from jobs if they can not do the necessary physical tasks, say lifting 50 pounds of equipment, or enduring a long slog through the desert. I know a lot of women who can do both, so expect to see women lifting and slogging right alongside men.

Fourteen percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel are women, more than 280,000 were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. By opening up military jobs across the board, the armed services can benefit from the full range of women’s abilities. Multiple studies have documented women’s superiority in strategizing, consensus building, and planning, valuable on the ground assets.

Even if overdue, this integration of the troops won’t be easy. Earlier this year the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that sexual assaults in the military were a huge problem, so ubiquitous that one general confessed it has undermined general respect for women veterans. I think more women in charge on the battlefield will go a long way toward changing that mindset.

It’s hard for many of us to understand why some women would seek combat duty.

Toward the end of the G.I. Jane film, Lt. Jordan’s is asked “Don’t tell me you wanted that kind of life?” Her answer, “I wanted the choice. That’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Right now, Gabriel Gomez is Massachusetts’ best known Navy SEAL. But the next SEAL Bay Staters may know on a first name basis, might sometimes wear pumps.