HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Jade Storms
Women soldiers all across the nation are reacting to the lift of the ban that once barred American women from serving on the front lines. It is the first step that will give anyone the chance to be a combat soldier.
Ashley Sorensen, a First Lieutenant and explosive ordinates disposal officer at Fort Shafter felt that this decision was a long time coming, and that women in the army have been an essential part to the military's success.
"We've been working hard for this change and now we've afforded opportunities for our future sisters and arms that they will hopefully take advantage of," Sorensen said. "Women have been team leaders. They've been disposing weapons, caches, they've been disarming IEDs (improvised explosive device), and for us it's just a continuing and a moving forward."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta added earlier Thursday morning that while everyone will be entitled a chance to become a combat soldier, not everyone who applies will be able to meet the qualifications. Panetta added that the qualifications will not be lowered, but Michelle Pierre, a First Class Sergeant, said that won't be a problem for women who want to be on the front lines.
"I think it's an individual that is able to have that strength and stamina, and not necessarily dependent on gender." Pierre said.
Chief of Public Affairs Colonel Mike Donnelly said the United States Army Pacific fully supports the decision to lift the direct combat exclusion for females in combat zones.
"For the past ten, twelve years, soldiers from the pacific, male and female, have been fighting alongside each other in Iraq and Afghanistan in combat roles," Donnelly said. "At the end of the day, this is really not anything new. We've been doing this, and males and females have been serving in combat roles and they've been doing it with dedication, honor, and duty"
While it remains to be seen how this ruling is going to take place at the tactical level, Donnelly made it clear that the U.S. Army Pacific welcomed this ruling and is supportive of it.