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Women press to end combat ban
Four in military say restriction is limiting careers
Four female members of the armed services have filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department, saying its “outdated” ban on women serving in combat is unconstitutional and hurts their military careers.
The women’s lawsuit comes as the Pentagon is considering opening more positions to female service members.
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta opened to women 14,000 jobs that had been male-only assignments. He ordered each of the services to look into other jobs that could be opened and report back to him before the end of this month.
Pentagon press secretary George Little declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the recent openings “are merely the beginning and not the end of a process, and we expect that process to continue.”
Critics say women on average are not physically built for ground combat, and placing them in combat would hurt cohesion in an all-male units.
“All of the men I’ve ever served with have a protector instinct, and I can assure you that that instinct would be immediately directed to the woman on the team,” retired Army Col. Jeff Struecker, a former Ranger, said in an interview earlier this year. “If something happened to her, it would devastate the men on the team in ways that wouldn’t devastate them if it was their best friend and it was a guy.”
One of the plaintiffs, Maj. Hegar, a helicopter pilot, said she experienced no acts of chivalry when her plane was shot down on a search-and-rescue mission with special forces in 2009.
Her seven-person crew was on a mission to rescue three injured U.S. troops who were hit with a roadside bomb. As their helicopter landed next to the convoy, they were ambushed.
“This whole thing was set up as a trap for medevac helicopters,” Maj. Hegar said.
Her crew brought the wounded on board, but as they lifted off, they realized they wouldn’t make it back to the base and decided to land.
The crew secured a perimeter around the aircraft. Maj. Hegar, realizing the wounded had no body armor, shielded them with her own body. A small reconnaissance aircraft later extracted them from the landing site.
“They absolutely did not treat me like I was a weaker person who was to be protected,” Maj. Hegar said of her crew. “There was no excessive chivalry or trying to take care of me.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Kristina Wong is a national security reporter for The Washington Times, covering defense, foreign policy and intelligence affairs. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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