Role change expected for women in military

Role change expected for women in military (Image 1)

A decision by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta could change the role of women in the military.

Senior defense officials reported Wednesday that Panetta will remove the military's ban on women serving in combat.

The news came on the same day Ft. Campbell soldiers gathered to remember two fallen comrades, including Specialist Patricia Horne, who died serving in Afghanistan.

“That just goes to prove that women are serving side-by-side in combat, and they're dying side-by-side with their male counterparts,” said Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Chang.

Chang is one of the top ranking female officers with the 101st Airborne. She's earned her combat action badge serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She told Nashville's News 2 she has never been held back from military goals, but she's pleased with the decision.

“It's nice to know our leadership has the confidence in our ability and will now judge us based on our ability rather than by our gender,” she said. “Because certain schools do afford certain promotion opportunities, and those schools or opportunities have been off limits to us before, that maybe those doors will be open.”

The defense secretary's decision comes at the recommendation of the joint chiefs of staff and overturns a 1994 rule banning women from serving in certain combat roles. The move could open up thousands of front line positions.

Not everyone is in agreement.

Army Veteran Walter Roberts served in a different time. As a Special Forces Green Beret, a position still reserved for men only, he fought in Vietnam and remembers women on the front lines.

“There were nurses,” he said.

“We had to protect 'em. I mean, they were vital to us. And we lost a few people doing it,” he continued after a few moments pause to collect himself.

The memories of a time gone by are still painful and shape Roberts' attitude on today's military.

“War is not something you play with. This is not a game, and I know they understand that sometimes,” he said, “but me, my feeling is, what I am, I'm going to be watching out for them more than I'm going to be watching out for anything else, and that's a distraction I don't need.”

For many women in uniform, it's time for a change.

“They're doing to same tough jobs. They're getting wounded just the same, and they bleed just the same,” said Chang.

An official announcement on Panetta's decision is expected as early as Thursday.

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