- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2005

Congress’ only female veteran will lead the fight to block changes to the military’s women-in-combat policy when the issue comes to the House floor next week.

Rep. Heather A. Wilson, New Mexico Republican and a 1982 Air Force Academy graduate, said the changes are a step backward and an insult to women currently serving. She will try to strip out the new policy, which would prevent the military from expanding women’s combat roles in the future without specific congressional approval.

“There are some people in this country who believe that good men protect women. I understand that feeling. But I think that Americans have also come to understand that good women love freedom, too, and are willing to fight for it,” said Mrs. Wilson, who served until 1989 and retired with the rank of captain.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican, says the Army is violating a 1994 Pentagon directive meant to keep women from combat support roles.

On Wednesday, at his urging, the committee passed a bill enshrining parts of the 1994 directive into law as part of the defense authorization bill. It would freeze all positions where they are, and require that Congress approve any future changes in women’s combat roles.

“This is an issue that lends itself to the judgment of Congress,” Mr. Hunter said Wednesday night right before winning approval of his new policy.

But Mrs. Wilson said the changes, in fact, would remove women from some slots. “The people who are pushing this policy change, this piece of statute, intend to close positions, not open them,” she said.

She said Mr. Hunter’s policy would expand the 1994 directive from the Army to all services, and that the directive’s ban on women in special forces slots could mean radical changes for services such as the Air Force, where women can fly C-130 aircraft as part of special forces duty. She also objected to the 1994 policy’s restriction on women performing long-range reconnaissance.

But Hunter spokesman Josh Holly said the new changes don’t undo anything.

“Under our provision, no job that is currently open to female service members will be closed. If it’s open it remains open, if it’s closed, it remains closed,” he said.

Mr. Holly said that for the Air Force, out of 260 job classifications, four are closed to women. Of the Army’s 941 classifications, 75 are closed; 53 of the Marines’ 819 positions are closed; and of the Navy’s 994 positions, 59 are closed to women.

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