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Former Service Members React to Having Women On Front Line

Posted at: 01/23/2013 10:42 PM
Updated at: 01/23/2013 10:46 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- We could be seeing big changes for women in the military, the Secretary of Defense says they may soon be up there with men on the front line.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to remove the ban on women serving in combat, specifically on the front line. The move will open up hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

The Minnesota National Guard wouldn't say anything on camera, but confirmed the Secretary of Defense plans to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military on Thursday. We talked with a woman who was in the service and an area vet to hear what they think of this.

“I remember basic training like it was yesterday," said Jacqueline Carson. She joined the service right after the Vietnam War. "I had to prove myself once again there, that I was as tough and as good as the guys and it was fairly new to have females in the Army," said Carson.

She had a lot to prove then, during a time where few women were in the military. "I proved myself and then I was assigned to type, and file, and answered the phone, which really kind of bothered me," said Carson. She says she knew she was capable. That's why she's in support of the idea, to allow women on the front line.

"I feel, if they feel they're qualified, if they can do it, yeah! If this is what they want, they should be able to," said Carson.

“If that's where they want to be. They can be just as fierce warier as men can be," said Terry Throndson. He was in the service around the same time, serving in the Vietnam War and says it’s about time we break those barriers.

"It's a good thing. It's not for them to think that they have to walk behind men. They can walk alongside, they can walk in front of men. They've earned it," said Throndson.

Some opponents argue women may not be as physically, or even mentally able.

“What, men don't cry?" Joked Throndson. Carson argues that too. She says because they'd still be required the pass the same training as men. "They'd have to be able to handle themselves as any soldier would, so not every woman could make it," she said.

For the women who can prove it, Carson feels there’s no reason to hold them back. "As I said, there are several other jobs that if they don't want to be on the front lines, there’s something else they can do. If they do want to be on the front lines, they should have that opportunity," said Carson.

We called about 2 dozen military members today for the story, those currently enlisted weren't allowed to speak, and of the veterans we talked with, none were against the change.

Carson comes from a military family. Her husband is a war veteran and her son, Nicholas Dickhut, was killed last year while serving in Afghanistan.