Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who used her experience as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in Iraq to launch a political career, is all in favor of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that women will be allowed to serve in combat.
I applaud the decision by Secretary Panetta to begin the process of lifting combat restrictions on women in the military. Throughout American history and in the last decade in particular women have served in combat zones with distinction and honor. In fact the Army has adopted the Combat Action Badge to all troops who engage in combat, including women.
This decision to allow women to serve in combat will allow the best man or woman on the frontline to keep America safe. There has always been some level of opposition to increasing the diversity in our military whether it has been minorities or women. It is clear that the inclusion of groups like African Americans and Asians has made our military stronger. As a combat Veteran I know the inclusion of women in combat roles will make America safer and provide inspiration to women throughout our country.
Duckworth, who enlisted in the ROTC at George Washington University, chose to fly Black Hawk helicopters because, 10 years ago, it was one of the few jobs that allowed women to enter a combat zone. As a female platoon leader, she commanded a group of skeptical men who called her “mommy platoon leader” when she made them cocoa, she told Mother Jones magazine.
Duckworth lost both legs after her helicopter was shot down by Iraqi insurgents in 2004. While recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., she met Sen. Dick Durbin, who invited her to the State of the Union address, then championed her runs for Congress in 2006 and 2012. During both campaigns, she emphasized her military experience -- to the annoyance of Rep. Joe Walsh, a non-veteran who complained that “true heroes” don’t brag about that stuff.
While Duckworth may be the first woman to win office based on her combat exploits, this decision means she won’t be the last.