- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

FORT HOOD, Texas Female pilots of attack and supply helicopters are as determined as any to go into battle in Iraq, even as reports come back of choppers downed by accidents and hostile fire.
"I think resolve usually tends to strengthen in the face of adversity," said Lt. Hartleigh Caine, an Apache Longbow attack helicopter pilot and member of the high-tech 4th Infantry Division. "I don't think about what we're going to do in a different light because I'm a woman. I don't see myself as any different from my compatriots."
The division and other units totaling more than 30,000 troops will begin flying to the Gulf region in the coming days to join the invasion of Iraq, military officials said yesterday.
Lt. Caine said Monday "was a difficult day." That's when word came that two Apache Longbow pilots with the 1st Cavalry Division were being held prisoners of war by Iraqi forces after their chopper went down behind enemy lines.
Lt. Caine, 26, said she knows the two pilots, Chief Warrant Officers David S. Williams and Ronald D. Young Jr. She also knows someone else from their battalion; her husband, Murphy Caine, is one of its platoon leaders.
But the bad news only further steeled her nerves for what lies ahead.
"I don't think there's a single person in my company that doesn't want to be over there and bring this thing to a close," she said.
Asked whether it made her worry more because she is a woman one of only three female Apache Longbow pilots in the entire 4th Infantry Division Lt. Caine said she doesn't consider her sex when she's doing her job.
Her attitude is one shared by other female pilots preparing to head off to war in what has become an emerging reality of the contemporary American military: Young women, not just young men, are being wrapped further and further into the violence of combat.
"I could be flying with a male pilot and we could be shot down and I would have the same chance of survival as he would because we've had the exact same training," said Lt. Molly Boudreau, a Black Hawk pilot with the 4th Infantry Division.
Lt. Boudreau said she realized when she graduated in the top five of her flight school class two years ago that, "I can do anything these guys can do, I'm just as capable."
But, she said: "It's almost as if I've had to prove something to myself this whole way."
While Lt. Boudreau, 25, reflected that she was "breaking ground" as the only woman in the flight school class, she said it bothers her when people make comments suggesting women don't belong in combat.
"Women have just as much to offer to the battlefield, and gender shouldn't be a deciding factor on whether to let us fight or not," she said. "When I'm out there in the field, it doesn't even occur to me that this guy on my left or on my right might not want me there because I'm a girl."
"The bottom line," she said, "is that we're all just soldiers fighting for the same cause."
In doing so, women more than ever are facing the same threats faced by male soldiers. That was driven home this week when the Pentagon verified reports that two of the 12 U.S. soldiers missing in action since the war began are women.
During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, when women were more restricted from combat, Iraqi forces did take Maj. Rhonda Cornum as a POW and sexually abuse her.
Now, Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson and Pfc. Lori Piestewa are the first women taken prisoner since the Pentagon in 1994 authorized women to serve in any post other than front-line infantry, special-operations forces, or armor or artillery units.
Lt. Boudreau said she fears for the female POWs no more than she fears for the males.
"My knee-jerk reaction when I first saw that [Spec. Johnson was among the first group of POWs taken], was that it is unfortunate that POWs were taken," she said. "But my second thought was, wow, good thing she has the same training as the other guys that were taken because she has the same chances of survival."

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