Women in combat: Local reactions to decision run gamut

2013-01-25T00:00:00Z 2013-02-14T21:23:15Z Women in combat: Local reactions to decision run gamutThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

WASHINGTON — Women in the military must have the same opportunities as men to take on grueling and dangerous combat jobs, whether loading 50-pound artillery shells or joining commando raids to take out terrorists, defense leaders declared Thursday as they ordered a quarter-million positions open to service members regardless of gender.

As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, signed an order wiping away generations of limits on women fighting for their country, the military services said they would begin a sweeping review of the physical requirements. At the same time they acknowledged that women have been fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade.

Women make up about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or neighboring nations in support of the wars. Of the more than 6,600 U.S. service members who have been killed, 152 have been women.

The leaders said no physical standards will be lowered just to send more women closer to the battlefront.

“I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability and qualifications and on performance,” Panetta said at a Pentagon news conference.

“Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. But everyone is entitled to a chance.“

It won’t happen quickly or easily. But in the end, he said, the U.S. military and America will be stronger for it.

Dempsey did not rule out women serving even as members of elite special operations forces, including the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEALs, whose members killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.


Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Smith, 43, Houston, Minn.

Michelle Smith knows women can serve in combat roles. As a helicopter crew chief with the Minnesota National Guard, she flew more than 130 combat missions in Iraq, including a historic all-female mission on Christmas Day in 2007.

“I believe women should be able to do whatever they want to do,” she said. “If you’re interested in it, try it.”

But after nearly 23 years in the military — including two deployments and six years of active duty — Smith has reservations about women serving in some positions.

She draws a line between combat support roles such as hers and the type of missions carried out by infantry troops. Both involve contact with the enemy — there are no front lines in modern warfare — but the mission conditions couldn’t be more different.

Smith said women are perfectly capable of meeting the physical and emotional demands, but would be medically vulnerable without the ability to bathe.

“Hygienically speaking it is unsafe for a woman … we’re talking 90 days out in the field with no ability to shower… It is not healthy for a woman to be exposed to that kind of environment. They will get infections,” she said. “Even though I flew in combat missions, I was able to go home and take a shower.”

When she was 20 years old and joining up, Smith said she would have relished the opportunity to be in a combat unit.

“I’ve always done things that have been outside the norm,” she said. “I like good aggressive, physical work.”

But speaking by phone from Fort Leonard Wood, where she is undergoing medical evaluations for her back and awaiting discharge from the Army Reserve, Smith concedes that her years of service have extracted a toll on her body.

Rachel Beauchene, 26; Josh Beauchene, 25; La Crosse

Rachel Beauchene wasn’t looking for a combat experience when she joined the Army in 2004, but she would have liked to have the option.

Now a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, she’s glad to see the military recognize that modern warfare has already put many female troops in the line of fire.

“There are women who are already in those combat roles,” she said. “Now they’re finally getting that acknowledgment that they’re out there. They’ll be able to get recognition, combat pay.”

Beauchene served two years in South Korea, where she worked as an Army broadcast journalist, but she points out that she went through the same basic training as her male counterparts.

Her husband, Josh Beauchene, served in the Wisconsin National Guard for seven years, including stints in Kuwait and Iraq.

During the second deployment, there were about 10 women assigned to Beauchene’s infantry unit. Most were mechanics or support specialists, Beauchene said, but they went along when the unit was on supply runs, which often involved enemy contact.

“It isn’t like World War II or Korea,” he said. “Anything can happen at any time, anywhere.”

Despite some initial hesitancy from the men, Beauchene said they quickly learned they could trust their female counterparts.

He doesn’t see why women shouldn’t be allowed in full combat roles, providing they want to be there and can meet the qualifications.

“It’s always going to be something based on training,” he said. “It’s not going to be a gender makeup … it’s going to be the training.”

Ray Boland, 73, Sparta

Thursday’s announcement that the Department of Defense is lifting the ban on women serving in combat roles wasn’t shocking to Ray Boland, who served 30 years on active duty in the Army and retired as commander of Fort McCoy.

In 1978, two of the Army’s first female helicopter pilots were assigned to the aviation battalion he led in Hawaii.

“This idea of broadening opportunity for women in the military has been going on for 35 years,” Boland said. “I think it’s just another step in an evolution that’s been going on for quite some time.”

While his battalion had to make some “cultural adjustments,” they adapted, and women have been flying ever since.

Boland expects relatively few women will be interested in those front-line combat jobs, but he said the decision to open them up is little more than a formality.

“We’re talking about a fine line between duty positions and exposure (to combat),” he said. “Women were exposed fully in Iraq and Afghanistan, even in support-type roles... It’s just a technicality of whether someone has the opportunity to be assigned to any position they want.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(48) Comments

  1. Faust
    Report Abuse
    Faust - January 30, 2013 9:43 am
    Yeah, because objecting to killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people is a real wimpy thing to do. You guys on the right keep getting crazier by the second.
  2. Faust
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    Faust - January 29, 2013 3:09 pm
    There's more to this than meets the eye. The fact is, women over the years have been in combat zones, not necessarily carrying weapons, but cameras and medical gear. When they got hurt, because women were not officially allowed in combat they were not eligible for the same level of medical treatment afforded to troops that were 'officially' hurt in combat zones. That's one of the issues that this new legislation addresses.
  3. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - January 26, 2013 10:23 am
    What, you think it is right that a woman who is pregnant goes to the frontline of battle? You crawl under that rock buddy because, I don't want to hear about a woman getting shot through the stomach and killing her unborn child. I guess you do.
  4. NavyVet
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    NavyVet - January 25, 2013 11:03 pm
    Because Richy there are too many bleeding hearts in this country that would cry if we did that. Lol
  5. Richy
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    Richy - January 25, 2013 9:16 pm
    Why send any into combat I mean we have nukes so just get the job done right the first time! LOL
  6. Redwall
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    Redwall - January 25, 2013 9:14 pm
    The media is covering this story with phrases like "women are now 'allowed' to serve in combat roles." Apparently the media thinks the armed services are like civilian life where you have the choice of what you want to do.

    This means women will at times be assigned to combat whether they like it or not. And if they can't do it, they may not survive, or may come come minus some body parts or traumatized.

    It also means that, should a draft ever be reinstated at any time, all those girly girls we all know might get pushed into combat roles...a truly sad prospect. Apparently, some think this is a progress. I don't.
  7. NavyVet
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    NavyVet - January 25, 2013 8:48 pm
    reading this thread is like going back in time to the forties or fifties. sign a contract to not get pregnant or take birth control while in combat really???? why don't you go crawl back under the rock you can out from
  8. NavyVet
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    NavyVet - January 25, 2013 8:39 pm
    let's see they have said women will be held to the same standards to do the same job as men. but apparently a lot of you geniuses out there no more than the rest of the public or the Pentagon knows. will every woman make the cut No
    ..but neither will every man. I want the best person for the job I don't care if it's a man or woman.
  9. living the dream
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    living the dream - January 25, 2013 7:38 pm
    lets draft em and see how they like that for equal rights... are they lining up tp register for the draft? btw lets get a few gay in there too to balance out this diversity thing, but dont ask...maybe tammy would take a lead role on this...
    Report Abuse
    USMCGYRET - January 25, 2013 6:11 pm
    I don't comment on abortion issues or hold an opinion of it either way. If you have never served - obviously you haven't - then don't add your 2 cents on a subject you have no experience in.

    I have read FUBAR's posts as we share views on many things, however I don't need to try to be nice about it.

    Funny LAXTEA, you never really have anything intelligent to add to the conversation.
  11. Greenlight
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    Greenlight - January 25, 2013 3:54 pm
    Once again I urge you to read the Article about the origins of Political Correctness http://www.academia.org/the-origins-of-political-correctness/. It sheds some light on the whole direction of today's atmosphere. If you take note it was written in 2000. No one will say "Cultural Marxism" that term isn't popular. Nor do many know about "Fabian Socialism".
  12. LAXTEA
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    LAXTEA - January 25, 2013 3:43 pm
    Maybe we should only give them 10 rd "ammunition clips" Obama?
  13. LAXTEA
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    LAXTEA - January 25, 2013 3:42 pm
    Nap got himself a Glock at Gander mountain and is now going to lecture us about combat.
  14. LAXTEA
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    LAXTEA - January 25, 2013 3:41 pm
  15. LAXTEA
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    LAXTEA - January 25, 2013 3:41 pm
    Pretty weak logic Frog. That's like saying I can't be on a murder jury if I've never committed murder.
  16. LAXTEA
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    LAXTEA - January 25, 2013 3:38 pm
    Sorry jarhead, you don't have moral-superiority on this or any other issue. That's as dumb as women saying that men can't comment about abortion. Simply foolish.

    I suggest you read the marine's post above by FUBAR.
  17. FR0G
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    FR0G - January 25, 2013 3:27 pm
    One more thing to think about for all of you out there who think that women are or can be physically equal to men....Look at the best women scores/records in comparable sports like track and while the best womens records are better then many men they are no where equal to the best mens records. Take the best profession women basketball players and put them up against any mens professional team and the men's team will win at least 8 times out of 10 if not all of them. Now you are assuming that these physically weaker humans are going to go up against hardened, saddistic male troops of the likes of China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, etc. and come out on the better side.
    Something that someone else on here pointed out is that the military currently has two standards for physical testing, one for men and an easier one for women. For a man to get 100 points in the two mile run they have to run it in 13 minutes but a woman can get 100 points for running it in 15:36. That's BS!
  18. Lorraine
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    Lorraine - January 25, 2013 2:34 pm
    I am, however, a strong supporter of the military. My eldest served twice in Iraq with the Army. My second-born is in the Marines. He served both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and my youngest son is in the Sea Cadets.
  19. Lorraine
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    Lorraine - January 25, 2013 2:31 pm
    I have ten children, six of which are daughters, and eleven grandchildren so far -- three of which are granddaughters. I do not want to see any of these girls in combat.

    Females were created by GOD to be lifegivers; that is why we have wombs and nursing breasts.
  20. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - January 25, 2013 2:19 pm
    Thanks. I am often not PC but, thought on this topic I would take it easy. but, than I read people's comments and their view is based on equal rights and not from someone who has served and seen it first hand and frontline is NOT the place for women.
  21. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - January 25, 2013 2:14 pm
    Ha! Women got you men beat! While you discuss how many pounds they can carry while slogging through the boonies, THEY are going to college in record numbers and many already make darn good fighter pilots! Why should they split a finger nail when they can -literally- "rise above it!"
  22. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - January 25, 2013 2:09 pm
    Thought provoking article...thanks!
  23. Deadwood subscriber
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    Deadwood subscriber - January 25, 2013 1:35 pm
    More humor!

    By your logic, we should have never let blacks into the army.
  24. Deadwood subscriber
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    Deadwood subscriber - January 25, 2013 1:32 pm
    Thank you for the laugh!
  25. Greenlight
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    Greenlight - January 25, 2013 1:27 pm
    Fubar said "I tried to be PC ..." I assume you mean Politically Correct. Here's an interesting article about the origins of Political Correctness. http://www.academia.org/the-origins-of-political-correctness/
  26. tower
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    tower - January 25, 2013 1:19 pm
    Heard that this didn't come from the civilians in the Pentagon but directly from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Think they know what combat is and how modern combat works. While I have some questions about this I don't really care. One lesson we should have taken to heart from Vietnam is that a woman will kill you just as dead as any man. Standards for most military schools are the same for women as men. Not every woman is going to make it through, say, Sapper, school but some can. If they can then let them serve as they want. It isn't as if we will start painting tanks pink.
  27. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - January 25, 2013 12:52 pm
    One thing I never thought of until now. Will women be forced to sign a contract NOT to get pregnant or be forced to take Birth Control? Because, I would hate to see a woman get killed in combat and find out she was a pregnant.
  28. living the dream
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    living the dream - January 25, 2013 12:49 pm
    maybe for the next 200+ years we should have an all women military... now that is equal rights..what difference at this point does it make?
  29. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - January 25, 2013 12:48 pm
    I tried to be PC. The study we did in the Marine Corps in 92 & 93 was a decent size operation. Women were tested in all kinds of physical, mental, and combat areas. The woman in the program were tested in their ability to carry packs, mortars, .50 Cal browning’s, bipods, baseplates and men in the firemen’s carry and the results were not good. Woman were also sent into a mock SERE training program where if captured we were to try and extract information out of them. And we did, without ever "touching" them; the real bad guys will not be so kind. in the SERE program we ran audio of children's voices crying out for their mommy’s and this devastated the woman especially the woman that were mothers. The woman could not keep up with our PT standards and lacked raw physical strength. The woman tested could NOT pick up a man and carry him to safety. They had great difficulties firing a 7.62 machine gun from the hip giving the fellow Marines covering fire. And they always had to go back to shower and clean up. Listen ladies, you don’t need this nor do you really want it. There is just a difference between our genders and that is the way it is. Be careful what you wish for.
    Report Abuse
    USMCGYRET - January 25, 2013 12:40 pm
    My Opinion - if you don't have any military experience, you don't have any business commenting on this subject.

    Lifting the ban may be all fine and good, but some things come up as others have posted, selective service, for one.
    Standards being the other, same PT regulations, ability to handle the same combat gear load, and training qualifications.
    Those things need to be equal across the board, and if you don't cut it, there's no crying foul.
  31. LesTrafik
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    LesTrafik - January 25, 2013 12:11 pm
    Likely a good move for the military given difficulty in recruiting. ‘Problems’ come with all genders & sexual preferences where ‘bullets’ know neither. Neither does gender or physical strength guarantee mental soundness and/or protection under extreme stress.

    Decisions are often made by ‘leaders’ lacking in-trench experience. But, national polls are slightly in favor women in combat rolls. In generations to come, that support will likely be over 60% given the support of young females.
  32. you think you know
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    you think you know - January 25, 2013 11:50 am
    If you say anything negative about this people cry foul, but there's a lot of good arguments that need to be addressed. Like Krusty said, there should not be two seperate levels of qualificiation for men and women. If you are going to go side by side with a person to the gates of h*ll, I don't care if they are the best woman for the job, I want to know they're the best individual for the job. That would be my largest concern with this whole deal, that corners have the potential to be cut to allow a women the position.

    I also believe that every female should now have to sign up with Selective Services when they turn 18 like males do. If people want equality, that also means everything, not picking and choosing.

    I think it's good, give women the choice. If they can't physically or mentally do it, atleast then it's on them, not some rule that was written by politicians.

    Either way, we owe all service members a thank you.
  33. Greenlight
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    Greenlight - January 25, 2013 11:42 am
    Oink, oink. I wear it with pride. Spirit3 don't be such a Hater, or a menaphobe.
  34. KrustyV
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    KrustyV - January 25, 2013 11:15 am
    I spent more than 25 years in the Army as a combat engineer before retiring in 2005, I have worked with many women in the service. Letting women into combat arms is a horrible idea. A basic combat load is more than 80lbs. A man has to wear an IBA (flak jacket) a protective mask, rifle and at least 15 magazines, helmet, and depending on the job usually another 50 lbs of gear. This is back breaking even to most men. Women have lower PT standards than men, they have to do much less push ups and sit ups than men but yet they are supposed to perform the same job. When the news reports that women are going to be held to the same standards as men its a lie. A woman who passes a PT test has passed the "womans" PT Test, not the same as passing a mans test.Yet they are supposed to be doing the same amount of work.
  35. spirit3
    Report Abuse
    spirit3 - January 25, 2013 11:03 am
    so basically the responses are, men cannot be trusted and are sexist pigs
  36. allcav
    Report Abuse
    allcav - January 25, 2013 10:59 am
    These kinds of things have a way of sorting themselves out. Women must currently volunteer for positions that might put them at the front lines, and relatively very few have done so. I see this as more a gratuitous gesture by Panetta than any really ground breaking move.
  37. FR0G
    Report Abuse
    FR0G - January 25, 2013 10:38 am
    One other thing that should be brought to light on this topic...only about 1% of the American population has ever even served in the military. Of those who have served only about 20% of those people (20% of 1%) have served in a combat role.

    The decision on who is best suited for the combat role should be left to those who have actually done it, but unfortunately, that's not how it's done in America. We rely on the priveleged class, who overwhelming know nothing about military service, let alone combat service, make the decision. This happens because most Americans are too lazy to serve and too stupid to ask a real combat veteran what he thinks. Most Americans rely on the main stream press to tell them the truth, but the main stream press is now just the propagand arm of the democrat/socialist party.

    So long America, you had a good run, but like all republics you are failing.
  38. FR0G
    Report Abuse
    FR0G - January 25, 2013 10:12 am
    This move, while great for the democrat party politically, is horrible for the safety of America. This move will not make America safer and the military more effective. There are many reasons why this is, but alot of the reasons hinge on the fact that men and women are sexually attracted to each other. This creates tension and a loss of focus on the job. Combat jobs are tough and not all men are cut out to do them, but when the political forces that be start forcing women into these roles, combat effectiveness will go down, not up.
    One of the first things you will see is an increased rate of women crying that they were sexually harassed, when in fact all they were being is harassed because they were the newbies. All newbies get harassed to see if they can take a little bit of pressure, because in combat, pressure is immeasurable.
    Obama and the Democrat party are continuing their destruction of America with the compliance of idiots and the media. It's sad to witness.
  39. olderthandirt
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    olderthandirt - January 25, 2013 9:44 am
    This shows the feminization of our society. Since the Obama administration wants gender neutrality, this is what we get. Since there are physical and mental differences between men and women, this will put many at risk. Hey, they can put a pregnant woman in the front lines to fight, then the Democrats will be VERY happy, especially if the baby is killed! What a disgrace for the men in our society.
  40. Greenlight
    Report Abuse
    Greenlight - January 25, 2013 9:43 am
    All Males between the ages of 18-26 living in the US are required to register with the Selective Service. Same should be for Females.
  41. Mack
    Report Abuse
    Mack - January 25, 2013 9:12 am
    We should only allow women in combat, no men, on both sides. Then, instead of a stupid war, we could have a big catfight.

    (This website doesn't work very good).
  42. mocha1
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    mocha1 - January 25, 2013 8:55 am
    Next our president will issue an executive order banning these same female warriors from shooting male islaminst terrorists, demonstrating his sensitivity to all religions of the world. Shooting of a male Islamist by a female would be a great dishonor to the practioners of this religion of peace. That same order would also include the banning of the use of any bullets produced in Israel. This would also represent a great offense to the warriors of Allah. Killed by a female soldier or Zionist bullet could jeopardize the journey to paradise.
  43. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - January 25, 2013 8:44 am
    Again, Nappy's point is well stated.
  44. Napoleon
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    Napoleon - January 25, 2013 7:49 am
    Women have fought in wars for centuries: the USSR 1941-45, Israel, etc.

    But be careful what you wish for, you might get it. Very few soldiers of either gender hold up well in violent combat. Forget what you see on TV, real combat is horror, combat goes way beyond mere fighting.

    "Battlefield S2/E6 - The Battle for the Rhine"


    "Battlefield S4/E1 - The Battle of Kursk"

  45. Seriously Now
    Report Abuse
    Seriously Now - January 25, 2013 6:53 am
    I think women are just as deserving of being swept up in worthless wars as men. We have the shining example of the past tens years to encourage them. Have we all gone insane?
  46. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - January 25, 2013 6:44 am
    "Hygienically speaking it is unsafe for a woman"

    I have commented on this same thing on these threads. I was envolved in the study in 1992 and 1993 about woman in combat. You don't need to prove a thing ladies.
  47. Simon
    Report Abuse
    Simon - January 25, 2013 4:03 am
    I served in the infantry, and I'm glad they get a chance, But I see this causing a lot of problems.
  48. Anonangel
    Report Abuse
    Anonangel - January 25, 2013 3:26 am
    Not a big deal , gratz to them.
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