Vets approve of women in combat

Steve Ranson / Lahontan Valley NewsChief Warrant Officer Vania Apodaca was one of three female aviators in the Nevada Army National Guard’s aviation company who flew in Afghanistan in 2012.

Steve Ranson / Lahontan Valley NewsChief Warrant Officer Vania Apodaca was one of three female aviators in the Nevada Army National Guard’s aviation company who flew in Afghanistan in 2012.

Local military veterans said Thursday they overwhelmingly support lifting the ban to allow women to serve in direct combat roles.Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rescinded a 1994 ruling, to remove the military’s ban on women serving in combat, thus opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than 11 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.The plan to integrate women into direct combat positions will be implemented as early as May, with full implementation slated by 2016.“American women have been serving in our nation’s Armed Forces for decades, and I am grateful for the sacrifices they have made,” said Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller. “Like their brothers-in-arms, our military women have the right to pursue the opportunity to engage in direct ground combat if that is the path they choose while serving their country.”The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommendation overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. According to the Pentagon, military services have three years to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women. Lifting the ban will create 230,000 more jobs for women in the military. This will be implemented as early as May and fully implemented by 2016.The ruling will affect the Army and U.S. Marine Corps more than the other services. According to Maj. Dennis Fournier, public affairs officer for the Nevada Army National Guard, no unit will be affected and that includes Fallon’s 609th Combat Engineer Company. Fournier said Nevada women have served their country proudly at home and on deployment with aviation, transportation, signal, military police and cavalry units.For example, two female aviators assigned to Bravo Company, 189th General Support Aviation Company are on their way home after serving a deployment to Afghanistan, while female drivers with the Silver State’s 593rd Transportation Company have either been driving armored vehicles or providing security on convoys into Kabul.The Sixth Region president for the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) said she agrees with Panetta. Charley Smith is a retired lieutenant colonel who served in the Army and Nevada Army National Guard. She also taught ROTC at the University of Nevada, Reno.“I believe that women can do the job as well as men given the fact that they put their mind to it,” Smith said. “They are strong and capable and have been handling war for many years.” Smith said the military is a place for men and women to work together to ensure America’s security and safety.“There should be no problem with women serving in the same units with men,” Smith added. Kieran Kalt, who served in the Nevada Army National Guard as a lieutenant in the signal battalion, said women have been just as prepared as their male counterparts.“I can also see them going for advancement and promotion,” she said about the new opportunities.Kalt said Panetta's decision is positive because women have the attributes to fight in combat. Naval Air Station Fallon Public Affairs Officer Zip Upham said the recommendation doesn’t affect the base or the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center because female pilots, for example, have been flying the F/A-18 Super Hornets in combat situations. He deferred any comment to the Department of Defense regarding women being able to join elite groups such as the SEALs.Linda Kay Neal, who served 20 years in the Navy, was assigned to a special boat unit that dropped off and picked up SEALs during their missions.“If you guys can put your life on the line, why can’t we,” she said.Navy veterans N.J. Van Riper and Cliff Farsje echoed Neal’s assessment.“I think it’s fair,” Van Riper said. “It’s up to them, their choice, but they should be able to pull their own weight.”Farsje agreed.“They should be able to protect our country as much as a man,” he added.Dick Hurstak retired from the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant and said he has no problem with Panetta’s decision.“The way I feel about,” he said, “is if they go through the same boot camp as men, I would be satisfied.”He said women receive the same infantry training as the men.“The standards should be the same, except they should look at the strength requirement,” Hurstak said.Retired Navy Seabee Claude Evans doesn’t agree with the decision to allow women into direct combat roles.“They are not equipped to do what is required no matter how hard they try,” he said. “There are limitations to what they can do.”


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