Local reaction to lifting of women in combat

Feb. 04, 2013 @ 05:06 PM

The lifting of a ban on women fighting in combat could lead to new opportunities for women in the military though many have already fought in combat roles. 

The Pentagon's reported decision to lift the ban on women in combat units will take time to put into effect, according to an article from CNN.com

For Wanda Levin, a local Army veteran who flew helicopters and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 3, the lifting of the ban is a welcome announcement.

Though now retired from the Army, she can look back on the various opportunities being a member of the military afforded her as well as the opportunities she was prevented from having because she was a woman.

"I don't think we should restrict somebody, male or female from doing a job if they're fully qualified to do that," Levin said.

The lifting of the ban on women in combat overturns a 1994 rule that prohibited women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units and is expected to open up more than 230,000 combat positions that have been off limits to women.

Levin has flown in combat and remembers going through flight school and being told which helicopters women could fly and which ones were off limits.

"When I was in flight school, they told me I can fly this helicopter, this helicopter but I can't fly that helicopter simply because I checked that little box that says female," Levin said.

For instance, she was not allowed to fly an Apache helicopter during her time in the Army but now that the ban has been lifted, women will now be able to. She enjoyed flying helicopters in the Army and spent 20 years in it. Though she liked the position she worked in, she feels all positions should be open to anyone with the proper qualifications and that both men and women should have to meet the same standards for whatever position they are trying to go into, she said. 

In high school, she decided she wanted to go into the Army while participating in her school's JROTC. For her, entering the Army was a way to better herself and provided her with a number of opportunities that she may not have had otherwise, Levin said.

"I think it was largely a political action because women have in reality been in combat for at least the last 10 years, probably longer than that in other roles. I think it's mostly a political attestation," Maj. Corrie Hanson, a member of the 16th Military Police Brigade (Army), who is stationed at Fort Bragg, said.

During the ban, there were certain military specialties closed to women. In her opinion, lifting the ban will allow women the opportunity to move into roles that were once closed to them, Hanson said.

"I think there are certain women what will join those specialties that were closed before. I think overall it will be a good thing for women. The majority of women who serve in the Army have already had the opportunity to serve in combat positions if that's what they wanted to," she said.

For her, she has enjoyed her experience serving in the Army. She attended West Point, the United States Military academy, and was commissioned from there. Despite the lifting of the ban, she does not feel that it will have a big impact on recruitment numbers of women in the military, she said.

"I don't think it will have a real impact on recruitment. I think it's going to have more of an impact on women who are already involved in the military. I think there is a certain type of woman who is interested in the military and the impact of the combat ban is not really going to change the person that gets involved in the military," she said.

The lifting of the ban will have less of an impact on the Air Force than on other branches of the military since women have already been allowed in more combat roles and today are not restricted to flying only certain aircrafts in the Air Force, retired Lt. Col. Eric Kelly, who works with Parkwood High School's JROTC, said.

In the 24 years he served in the Air Force, he saw women continually take a greater number of combat roles during that period, he said.

"I think it's a positive thing," he said in reference to the overall lifting of the ban on women in combat.

The lifting of the ban will take time to implement and though he sees it as a good thing, he feels that required standards for combat roles should not change just because women are now able to fill certain positions, he said.

"Women still need to meet the same standards expected for men," he said.  

The Associated Press contributed to this article.