Mid-South woman who pioneered combat service discusses new defense policy

Published: Jan. 25, 2013 at 2:26 AM CST
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(WMC-TV) – The Department of Defense rolled out its new policy opening combat positions to women. Action News 5 talked to one Mid-South woman who pioneered combat service in the US Navy.

In the early 90's, Carey Lohrenz was one of the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilots in the US Navy. Assigned to a carrier, she flew combat missions.

Lohrenz says Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta's announcement to lift the ban on women serving in combat units, was a long time coming.

"They're serving shoulder to shoulder with men in combat positions," she said. "Lifting this military ban just fixes a technical problem. Now women are going to get rewarded and promoted for the job they're already doing."

Lohrenz acknowledges some people will fight against this new reality, just as they did when she was a Navy pilot. But she has high hopes for the women who have chosen to serve their country now.

"Hopefully they'll have an easier time assimilating, because they've actually been in this position already for the last 10 years, really," Lohrenz said.

Lohrenz says arguments that women aren't strong enough, can't handle the stress of combat or will be a distraction to the unit won't hold up.

"I don't think anyone is arguing at this point that any standard should be lowered or reduced," she explained. "There should in fact be one standard for all."

Women will have to meet the same physical and mental qualifications as the men. And Lohrenz knows what it will take for the Defense Department's new policy to work.

"When you are implementing a policy that changes a perceived cultural norm, it will require very strong leadership to make that be successful," she said.

Each branch of the military will look at each job and unit to see how fast women can be integrated, and if it's feasible. Congress will also be notified of each job that opens up before it can take effect.

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