The Norman Transcript

Breaking News

Community News Network

November 28, 2012

Female service members sue over combat exclusion policy

WASHINGTON — Four female service members filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn the Pentagon's exclusion of women from many combat roles, arguing that the restrictions are unconstitutional and have hindered their careers.

The plaintiffs have all served in Iraq or Afghanistan and each performed dangerous combat-related missions. Two were awarded Purple Hearts - a combat decoration - after they were wounded on the battlefield.

"The shrapnel that tore through the vehicle that day didn't stop because I'm a female," Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, who was injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb while she was riding in a Humvee, said in a telephone interview. She said the Pentagon's combat exclusion policy assumes that women are less capable than men, "which is I think one of the biggest errors the military can make."

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is the latest legal attempt to force the Pentagon to lift its longstanding ban on women serving in most ground combat units. In May, two female Army reservists filed a similar lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

In both cases, the women are accusing the Pentagon of moving too slowly to recognize the reality of modern war zones, where the military has become dependent on female troops to fight the enemy even though on paper they are barred from doing so in many cases. In addition to Hunt, the plaintiffs are Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell, Marine 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell and Air Force Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar.

Responding to pressure from Congress and female veterans, the Pentagon announced in February that it would open about 14,000 combat-related positions to female troops, including tank mechanics and intelligence officers on the front lines.

But the Defense Department said it would keep 238,000 other positions - about one-fifth of the regular active-duty military - off-limits to women, pending further review. Virtually all of those jobs are in the Army and Marine Corps.

George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that Panetta has asked each branch of the armed services to continue to explore what other jobs could be opened to women. "His record is very strong on this issue," Little told reporters.

The biggest previous advance for women in uniform came in 1994, when the Clinton administration removed restrictions on more than a quarter-million troop slots. Since then, however, the Pentagon has kept in place a prohibition on women serving in units whose primary mission is "direct" ground combat, such as artillery, infantry and tank units.

In practice, however, many women serve in close support of ground combat units, blurring any distinctions on the battlefield.

The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Service Women's Action Network, which advocates on behalf of women in the military, is also a plaintiff.

Since 2001, about 290,000 women have deployed as part of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Defense Department statistics. Of those, 152 have been killed and 951 have been wounded.

Overall, women make up about 14 percent of the active-duty military.



 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014