LOUISVILLE, Ky.(WHAS11) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made it official, women are no longer barred from combat in the U.S. Armed Services. It’s certainly a controversial decision. WHAS11 talked to one woman who has dedicated years of her life to the Army and is training to become an Apache helicopter pilot.
“I think it really says, we are equal. And the 10 percent of the fighting force that’s here, they’re part of us too. We’re all one,” Elizabeth Likins said.
The Corbin, Ky. native has been in the Army for eight years, serving two tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. The repeal, she believes, creates opportunity for discussion.
“I think what it really does, is it forces us to talk about equality and it forces us to be the same,” explained Likins.
Women like Likins make up 15 percnet of active duty personnel. More than 150 women died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The change, however, doesn’t guarantee more women combat roles.
Panetta said, “Not everyone can meet the qualifications to be a combat soldier. But, everyone is entitled to the chance.”
The repeal is not without its critics. Those who believe women just aren’t built like men. Likins says it’s irrelevant. “I think it’s more important that it’s open. We’ll worry about the details later and how that plays out. But, to be able to do something and to be able to do any job. I think that’s what’s important for females.”
There will be exceptions. Units can seek waivers to prevent women from taking certain jobs. Those will have to be personally approved by the defense secretary.
Right now, Likins says it’s not about the details, “This is a huge step and we’ve talked about it for so long that there’s kind of a muddling of what this really means, but it’s a big moment.”
About 230,000 specialties are closed to women and they won’t all automatically be opened. Instead, there will be a review by military services to make that determination. The Marine Corps and Army will do testing with men and women to see if their recruiting PT tests need to be changed. The Air Force will change very little. Already 99 percent of their jobs are open to women.