Thomson ReutersJanuary 23, 2013 18:00
* Decision to be announced on Thursday
* Would be implemented by 2016, adds to Panetta's legacy
* Military ended ban on gays, lesbians in 2011 (Adds context on women in combat elsewhere in the world)
By David Alexander and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. military will formally end its ban on women serving in front-line combat roles, officials said on Wednesday, in a move that could open thousands of fighting jobs to female service members for the first time.