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Women On The Front Lines

On Memorial Day, we look at women and combat roles in the U.S. military.

In this Aug. 10, 2009 photo, a U.S. Marine Female Engagement Team wait for the signal to begin their patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. On Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, Pentagon rules will catch up a bit with reality, recommending to Congress that women be formally allowed to serve in more jobs closer to the front lines. (AP)

In this Aug. 10, 2009 photo, a U.S. Marine Female Engagement Team wait for the signal to begin their patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. On Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, Pentagon rules will catch up a bit with reality, recommending to Congress that women be formally allowed to serve in more jobs closer to the front lines. (AP)

American women in the U.S. military have been formally barred from direct combat roles. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, that line has become kind of a joke. Women now make up fifteen percent of the U.S. military. They’ve been all over these wars without clear front lines. When your transport column is under fire, you’re in combat. When you’re on foot, in uniform and armed in Khandahar, you’re in combat country.

Now the rules are changing.

This hour in an archive edition of On Point: On Memorial Day, women and combat in the U.S. military.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ashley Russell, a Captain in the U.S. Army, she recently returned from a 12-month tour in Afghanistan.

Margaret Harrell, senior fellow and the Director of the Joining Forces Initiative at the Center for a New American Security.

Kayla Williams, served in an Army interpreter in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, author of Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army. She is now a project associate with the RAND Corporation.

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, he is a senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “The Marine Corps, the most male of the armed services, is taking its first steps toward integrating women into war-fighting units, starting with its infantry officer school at Quantico, Va., and ground combat battalions that had once been closed to women.”

Christian Science Monitor “The Pentagon Thursday cracked open the door for women to serve in combat, though they will still not be permitted to fight in battle – at least officially.”

Armed Forces Press Service “Army leaders are asking whether — and how — to open infantry and armor ranks to  women, the service’s senior soldier said May 16.”

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