Women in combat ban challenged by lawsuit - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Women in combat ban challenged by lawsuit

Two high ranking female U.S. Army soldiers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Defense Department, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. General Thomas Bostick and Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lam Two high ranking female U.S. Army soldiers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Defense Department, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. General Thomas Bostick and Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lam

CARTERVILLE, IL (KFVS) - The debate over whether or not women should be assigned to ground combat units heated up this past week.

That's when two high ranking female U.S. Army soldiers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Defense Department, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. General Thomas Bostick and Assistant Army Secretary Thomas Lamont.

The two women who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday are Command Sergeant Major Jane Baldwin and Colonel Ellen Haring.

It is the first lawsuit to challenge the ban on women in combat.

"I think the world has changed so much. And I think women are a lot different then they were back in the day," said Cheryl Bryant of Carbondale, and widow of a Korean War veteran. "And I think women have a lot to offer. I think it would be okay."

The lawsuit alleges that the current military policies regulating women in combat has hindered their career advancement. And it restricts their current and future earnings. They also allege that the continued enforcement of the policies is unconstitutional.

"I think some women are very capable of being in battle. It depends on their physical and mental makeup," said Dan Fruge a U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran. "Some of them are very capable of being on the battlefield, just as some men are not capable of being on the battlefield. It depends on the individual as far as I'm concerned."

Women make up 15 percent of all soldiers in the armed forces, and 144 have died in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 900 have also been wounded there. More than 250,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade.

Still some veterans say that mixing the sexes on the battlefield could cause unforeseen problems for soldiers and their mission.

"I'm not saying that the women their psychological makeup would not be as strong as a man. I don't think there would be a problem there," said Mike Gunter a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran. " I just think when you start mixing genders on the battlefield that you've got a lot of inherent problems, which in turn could snowball. I've got some reservations there."

The military is making some changes for females and those assigned to combat units below the brigade level by opening up more than 14,000 jobs.

But, there are still more than 250,000 jobs that remain closed to women in the military.

That may all change if a measure proposed by Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Kirsten Gilllibrand (D-New York).

It's The National Defense Authorization Defense Act, and if passed it would order the military to come up with a plan to send women into battle.

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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