MADISON (WKOW) -- Women will be allowed to fill direct combat roles in the military, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced Thursday.
"Over more than a decade of war they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism," Panetta said. The new policy lifts a 1994 ban.
The decision has overjoyed retired Lt. Col. Frances Wiedenhoeft. She served 22 years in the Army Nurse Corps. "Women have been in conflict zones forever but American service women have been in the conflict zones and unrecognized," she said. Wiedenhoeft served in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. "I spent time actually in conflict and then there were the times that conflict actually came to us," she said.
Being in a combat situation is something Iraq War veteran Savage Clark can relate to. "This war's been different than any other war. There isn't like a front line anymore, it's just a constant," she said. Clark worked in search and seizure on the Syrian border and was attached to a Marines "grunt unit."
Under the new policy, women will be able to join infantry units and special forces if they meet the physical requirements. Clark says the changes could present challenges for women joining the units. "When I did it, we were the first team to join this unit -- they did not like it at all," she said.
Clark thinks that since the military is lifting the ban, they should close gender gaps in other instances -- including physical fitness testing and training requirements.
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