Oklahoma National Guard women discuss decision to allow them in combat roles

Women serving with the Oklahoma National Guard were connected to combat units in Afghanistan as part of female engagement teams.
BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Published: February 11, 2013
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It is an issue of fairness, both in allowing women to perform jobs they want to do and in closing a gap in female leadership at the highest levels, said Aragon, who recently served on a national committee that looked at why there aren't more women in top leadership positions in the military.

“If you don't have the right background and experience, you don't go to the next level in military command leadership,” Aragon said.

The change also will allow women to get credit for the danger they already face in war zones, where the distinction between combat and support units has blurred, Woodard said.

“There really is no front line anymore,” Woodard said.

“You can't see the enemy. I think that was on everybody's mind anytime you left your base. We encountered quite a few IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on the road.”

Aragon is proof that a woman can make general, but there are a limited number of leadership positions available, and many of them require leading combat troops.

Those positions require someone with combat experience.

Tschetter, an intelligence officer, said the change will help women who aren't necessarily looking for direct combat.

“For my job, I have a limited amount of units I can sit on,” Tschetter said. “I can't be an intelligence officer for an infantry battalion. With this change, I can do that job at that echelon. It opens up all kinds of promotional paths.”

Long process

The change won't be easy, Aragon said. Many members of the military still are wary of allowing women into combat roles, and integrating them into those positions will be a long process.

Tschetter said the military has faced such challenges before.

“Really it's just the military catching up to our culture and how far it has come,” Tschetter said. “Change is going to be hard like anything else. It may be messy at first. But our military has evolved and will evolve through this.”