Ban on women in combat to be lifted

Ban on women in combat to be lifted
Photo Source: U.S. Army
Photo Source: U.S. Army

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

The pentagon will make a historic announcement Thursday.  Women in the military will be allowed on the front lines of combat situations.

The announcement means about 200,000 more military jobs will be open to women and they'll be able to seek more promotions but above all women will be able to prove they can do anything men can do.

Women are no stranger to war. They have been a part of every major American conflict.  More than 130 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But soon they will be able fight side by side with men in areas they were previously banned.

"This is special for me personally but it really is historic. It is very exciting," said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, (D) Hawaii, who is also an Iraq War veteran.  "Really what this does is it allows for commanders on the ground to have a more unique skill set at their disposal. We have highly trained professional members of all of our armed services who are volunteering to serve and will do their best to put the mission first, serve our county, work as a member of a team and adapt and overcome any obstacle that is placed before them and that's what makes our country and our military so great."

Congresswoman Gabbard says women like Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester have already been proving themselves in high pressure, life and death combat situations.

"In 2005 she was serving in Iraq. She is the first woman to earn a Silver Star since World War II. She maneuvered her team under heavy attack and heavy fire from 50 insurgents. She maneuvered her team through the kill zone, flanked the enemy, and assaulted a trench line with grenades and her M4 rifle clearing two trenches in a 25 minute fire fight," said Congresswoman Gabbard.  "I don't know what more needs to be said about anyone who has concerns about whether or not women can operate under these high pressure combat situations."

"I think if they can do the job they should be allowed to," said SGM. Sandra M. Beekman (Ret.), Army veteran. "I'm ecstatic that it happened. Hopefully all the females out there will make it worth its while."

Sgt. Major Sandra Beekman retired after 27 years in the Army and is happy to see women will have opportunities she did not.

"It gives females a lot more options as far as jobs so that's a nice thing. When I went into the military if you weren't a certain height you couldn't be a Military Police officer and now that has changed. That's something minor for some people but for me I wanted to be an MP and I could not be because I'm only 5'3.  So I think over time it will be great," said SGM. Beekman.

Some ROTC members who are thinking about joining the military are thrilled with the possibilities.

"Just because we're women doesn't mean we're not capable of doing the same things men can do. So I think we deserve that chance to prove that we are capable and worthy of doing the same things men can do," said Shaynalee Aflleje, Farrington High School ROTC member.

"Instead of them wanting to go into the military and just going straight to the office or medical, instead of having them limit their options they can go further to what they want to do," said Utumalefata Lilian Kaio, Farrington High School ROTC member.

Of course some men may not be enthusiastic about the idea of serving shoulder to shoulder with women and the transition phase may have its challenges.

"It will be touchy. Just from seeing from my own time there are a lot of people whether it be male or female that feel they should be allowed to do that or they shouldn't so over time once it's proven they are able to it will be a good thing," said SGM. Beekman.

"Men might have a problem with it because they might feel like we might get in their way or because we're girls we don't have the physical strength that they do but at the same time in a combat situation we might have better ideas on like where to go with the situation or how to handle it," said Aflleje.

The military has until the end of 2015 to open up services to women.  Women would still need to pass all the strength and physical requirements for the elite forces.  Specific units can plead their case to the Department of Defense if they still want to exclude women.

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.