Military women suing Defense Department for ability to be promoted


Fort Leonard Wood, MO — The army’s Sapper Leader Course for Combat Engineers is in Missouri. It’s the only combat training course of its kind open to women. In the past 12 years only 54 women have made the grade.

“Every day there’s something to prove just because you’re a female, and that’s the way it is,” says Major Mary Hegar, a Helicopter Pilot.

This leads us to a controversial topic within the military – should women be allowed to fill the same ground combat positions as men?

Reporter Rebecca Schleicher sat down with one of four women involved in an ACLU lawsuit, pushing to change the law books.

To survive the battlefield, you’ve got to be tough. But the life of a soldier is no longer a men’s-only club. And after three tours in Afghanistan, Major Mary Hegar has the scars to prove it.

Major Hegar says, “I was wounded but I was still doing my job, still calm under pressure, not exhibiting any of the stereotypical characteristics that people are trying to say that women would exhibit under combat.”

When her helicopter went down she helped save both wounded patients and her crew. She has a Purple Heart and distinguished flying cross with valor. But the combat exclusion policy kept her from pursuing ground positions later. And throughout her career she saw discrimination first-hand.

“I had an instructor during pilot training try to fail me out…and it finally came out that he was trying to stop women from becoming pilots.”

So she and three other servicewomen took their battle to the home front, suing secretary of defense Leon Panetta. He’s officially over the department’s exclusion policy. Today, it keeps women from promotions and nearly a quarter million military positions.

“It prevents women from even competing for many positions, no matter how qualified or capable they are,” says Ariela Migdal of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Last week, the pentagon responded.

Pentagon Spokesperson, George Little says, “I think he’s made clear the secretary remains very committed to examining the expansion for roles for women in the US military.”

So people like Major Hegar are optimistic. She says she expects that process to continue.

She believes Secretary Panetta is progressive enough to put an end to the blanket policy.

Reporter Schleider asks, “Do you think it’s realistic that this completely goes away?”

“I think he really wants to lift this, but he needs the catalyst in which to do it, so we’re giving it to him,” Major Hegar says.

She is paving the way for hundreds of thousands of new paths for women to serve their country.

Rebecca Schleicher Reporting.

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