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Entries in Combat (3)

Wednesday
Nov282012

Female Servicewomen Sue Pentagon over Combat Policy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Pentagon on behalf of four women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan but feel stifled "by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."

Specifically, the servicewomen argue that the Defense Department's combat exclusion policy prevents them from achieving the same leadership roles as men.

In one instance, according to the ACLU, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, an Air National Guard search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, was shot down while rescuing three injured soldiers in Afghanistan and was forced to exchange fire with the enemy.

Although Hegar was awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, she maintains she was kept from seeking other responsibilities due to the Pentagon's policy against women in ground combat.

Meanwhile, two of the plaintiffs led Marine Corps "female engagement teams" in Afghanistan and the fourth plaintiff, while in the Army, was sent on similar missions, accompanying combat troops in Afghanistan.

However, the ACLU says because the missions were temporary duties, they were not officially recognized by their services.

According to the ACLU, women make up 14 percent of the armed forces, with 1.4 million now actively serving.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb082012

Pentagon to Lift Some Restrictions on Women in Combat

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon on Thursday will propose rule changes that will allow more women to formally serve in jobs closer to the front lines.

Defense officials say as many as 14,000 positions could be opened up, though the restrictions on women serving in infantry combat units will remain in place.

The rule change reflects the ongoing reality that in a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, women were already dying in combat with the blurring of the traditional definition of front lines.  Nearly 300,000 women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and 144 of them have died in those conflicts.

The rule change is included in a report required by Congress as part of last year’s Defense Authorization Bill that has been overdue for months.  The new rules likely will not go into effect until the summer if Congress raises no objections to the change.

Women will still be barred from serving in infantry combat units, defense officials say, but the changes will formally open up new positions at the combat battalion level that, until now, have been off-limits.

The new jobs opening up for female service members will be combat support positions, including communications, intelligence and logistical positions, defense officials add. Typically, these jobs have been made available at the combat brigade level, but not at the lower battalion level, which was deemed too close to combat situation.  

However, the insurgent nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has blurred the line for combat situations. That often meant that all units likely could be exposed to some combat, including units where women were allowed to serve.

For example, in Iraq it was a regular occurrence that units that were technically not combat units were seeing combat. For example, women have been allowed to serve in military police units for years, but when those units were dispatched to Iraq to provide security and training, they were often under risk of attack.    

In 2005, Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, serving with a military police unit in Iraq, became the first woman to receive the Silver Star since World War II.  Hester received the medal for valor for her role in fighting off a large insurgent attack on her convoy.

The rules to be announced Thursday will apply to all of the military services, but will have the greatest impact on the Army, given the large number of ground combat units it has.

A year ago, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission recommended that the military lift the ban on women serving in combat units.

The advisory panel of current and retired military officers said that keeping women from serving in combat units was an obstacle to promotions and career advancement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar042011

Military Panel Wants Women Allowed in Close-Combat Units

Jupiter Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While thousands of women face the dangers of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan every day, serving as aviators, military police, intelligence, and civil affairs officers, they remain technically barred from infantry units that specialize in close combat with the enemy on the ground.

Critics say the policy creates an unlevel playing field that makes it difficult for women to pursue careers in front-line tactical operations and acquire experience essential for assuming some of the military's top jobs.

However, that policy could soon come to an end.

The Military Leadership Diversity Commission, a nonpartisan advisory panel created in 2009 to study advancement of women and minorities in the military, is expected to formally recommend as early as Monday that President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates end the restrictions.

"The Commission recommends that DoD and the Services take steps to open all career fields and units to all women who are qualified," commission members wrote in their draft report, due in final form before March 15.

The commission's report will go to Congress and the White House upon its release.  But, ultimately, it's up to Gates to decide on a change of policy, because no law exists to exclude women from joining infantry units.

The panel found that allowing women to serve formally in close-combat units would have minimal impact on unit readiness and mission capability, morale, or cohesion, and restore a more equitable environment for all service members based on their qualifications.

Advocates for women in the military have hailed the report as a step toward recognition of the contributions women have already made on the front lines.

There are more than 213,000 women on active duty in the U.S. military, comprising 14 percent of the overall force and serving in each of the service branches, according to Women in Military Service for America.  But disproportionately small numbers are flag officers or generals.

Women are least represented in the Marine Corps, which is 93 percent male.  Only 3 percent of the Marines' flag officers and generals are women.

Opponents of change say close-combat conditions are no place for women, who don't have the physical strength to match their male counterparts and whose presence would bring sexual tension to the ranks and provide tempting targets to enemies intent on capturing them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio