Local reaction to women allowed combat roles - Tucson News Now

Local reaction to women allowed combat roles

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Women serving in the military will now be allowed to take on roles in combat. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the change just hours ago.

The joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the new policy, which will open up more than 200,000 frontline jobs to women, mostly in the army and the marines. Lifting the ban means higher pay for female officers, along with the opportunity to join elite fighting units.

But they'll still have to meet rigid requirements of fighting units. The new policy will be phased in over the next three years.

But already Tucson News Now is hearing reaction to the change. Local recruiters say they're not sure if this historic announcement will lead to more women wanting to join the military.

Right now women make up about 14 percent of the military's active duty roster. 150 female soldiers have been killed in the line of duty and more than 800 injured.

Many feel this announcement now levels the playing field for men and women who want to lay their lives on the line and defend our country.

"We need to pick people as individuals, pick the best man for the job.  Even if it's a woman," said Martha McSally, retired USAF colonel. 

Hundreds of thousands of women are already out there serving. But for decades, moving up the ranks has been tough. Retired First Class Sergeant Victoria Macchietto-Sciola, a retired first class sergeant served in Northern Iraq.

"There was a nickname. They called the base I was serving Mortaritaville because we got bombed 5-6 times a day," she said. 

Retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally faced her own set of challenges when she enrolled in fighter pilot school. 

"It was my primary motivation to be fighter pilot when I got to the air force academy. I found out that women couldn't be fighter pilots," she said. 

Both women made it to the top of their careers, but say they had to jump through many hoops and work just a little bit harder than the men.

"We're getting combat pay, hazard duty pay. Put us out in the front lines where we want to be.  Did you want to be on the front lines?  Sure. Sure.  Butted to the right, butted to the left.. Bring them home.. We all come home together," Macchietto-Sciola said.

Tucson News Now stopped by a local recruiting office to see if officials felt this would help them draw more women into the military. Officials declined to comment, but for this young female cadet it's an incentive.

"When Leon Panetta lifted the ban a lot of us women were excited," said Sunrise Wichkard, Cadet 4th Class. 

At a local VFW post on the east side, many felt it was about time.

"Its about time I think women are very capable.. Proven it over time," said Gayle Lehring, Ladies Auxilary President. 

"I think they should have done it years ago.. Women should have the right to serve just like men.. Only problem I have is you get into combat zone situations and if woman gets captured.. It scares me," said Frank Skopp, a war veteran. 

Tucson News Now reached out to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base but officials declined to comment. Officials at Fort Huachuca did not return Tucson News Now's calls for a comment.

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