Female Soldiers In OKC React To Pentagon Decision On Women In Combat

Wednesday, January 23rd 2013, 10:34 pm
By: News 9

A groundbreaking move Wednesday by Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta, removing the military's ban on women serving in combat. This would open hundreds of thousands of frontline positions to women.

The historic announcement ends a decades old policy. The recommendation by the joint chiefs of staff overturns a 1994 ruling banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

Retired Lt. Col. Steve Russell knows all too well what's it's like to serve in combat. He served 21 years in the service, and helped with the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein which inspired him to write this book.

"No one could ever question the commitment and valor of our women in uniform," said Russell.

In the 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry, Russell commanded a 1,000-soldier task force in Iraq; 17 of them were women. He says he's not opposed to women serving in combat, but he's struggling with the issue.

1/23/2013 Related Story: AP Sources: Panetta Opens Combat Roles To Women

"In the combat roles, I guess the biggest thing I struggle with is, why on earth, as an American man, would I want to expose people like my daughters to the horrors of battle," Russell said.  

Panetta's order will make women eligible to serve as infantrymen on combat patrol, and even in elite special operations units, like the Navy SEALS. However, women will have to meet strength standards, that could keep them out of units where the physical demands are especially grueling.

"I think women are just as strong and can be just as strong as men," said Linda Erico-Davis. "I mean women are joining the military, so why not out them in combat?"

"I think that women currently are in combat situations all the time, depending on their military occupations specialty," said Army Reservist, Tanya Roland.

"I've had to take human life. I've seen my friend die in battle. I wouldn't wish that on me, let alone women," said Russell.

Panetta's decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.