Soldiers reflect on DoD decision to allow women in combat roles

by Tim Oberle
Eighth Army Public Affairs

YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - When Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's announced his decision to open all combat-related jobs to every Service Member who qualifies, regardless of gender on Dec. 3, 2015 it raised a lot of questions around the force. The groundbreaking decision overturned a longstanding rule, at least on paper, that prevented women from serving in combat roles.

While Carter's decision has raised a lot of eyebrows, many people are unaware that this is not the first time American women will have served our country in combat. Leading the way for female Service Members everywhere was true patriot and women's right activist Deborah Sampson Gannett.

In 1782 at the height of the Revolutionary War she disguised herself as her deceased brother Robert and enlisted in the Continental Army. Serving with the Light Infantry Company, 4th Massachusetts Regiment, Sampson was one of the first documented females to serve on the frontlines for our nation.

With the deadline for each service component to implement the new policy right around the corner on April 1, Eighth Army took time to interview a few current soldiers to gauge their take on the new rule.

"It depends on the female," said Spc. Cathleen Little, a medic from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division. "After watching what has been going on through Pacific Pathways I think a woman should have to prove herself to be in the infantry, but I don't see an issue with it."

Several fellow Soldiers in Little's company had similar thoughts on the new policy, but also believe that some challenges might lie ahead as implementation takes place.

Dixon went on to explain why he has some reservations about the new decision.

"As far as a combat role itself, from what I have seen in the past some women are on the smaller side and some (guys) are 6'3 and weigh over 250 without a kit," he explained. "Depending on the weapon system (they) could weigh up to 350 pounds and from a medic standpoint, it would be a lot harder for a 5'2 female to pick up a 250 male and drag him to where he needs to be. But I (think) it depends on the female and it depends on their mentality. It has to be the right fit for the right job."

Another teammate agreed with Dixon, but added that with the proper training anything was possible.

"For the most part if they get enough training I don't see why not," said Pfc. Frankie Flores, 1-2 SBCT. "Everybody has a different body shape and everybody is raised differently. Some females might be stronger than me. It is all the mindset and physically whether a female can finish the job."

When asked if she would think about possibly moving to a combat role, Little was quick to answer.

"I would definitely be very curious about it." Little said. "Being out here on (Pacific) Pathways has opened my eyes to more of what they (front line medics) do and I would love the opportunity to go out and try."

As the new policy takes effect across the force, many of these questions will be answered. Regardless of how many women decide to take on combat-related roles, the Army will be better positioned to harness the skills that our talented female teammates bring to the fight.

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