Female vet on combat roles for women: 'It's a long time coming' - KPTV - FOX 12

Female veteran on combat roles for women: 'I think it's a long time coming'

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV/AP) -

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will announce plans to lift the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of jobs to females.

The change is welcomed by many current and former female soldiers, including Portland resident Callie Lentz.

"I think it's a long time coming," said Callie Lentz, who left the U.S. Army in December. "I'm all for quality, no matter what it is. Because at the end of the day, we all have different work ethics, we all come from different backgrounds, different life lessons. Like I said, it's not a gender issue, it's individualism."

Lentz, who moved to Portland to search for a job in a sustainability field, served in the Army for four years, including 16 months in Afghanistan.

She said many female soldiers are already working in combat-type positions, citing her own six-month stint as a platoon leader in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. She oversaw 40 male soldiers on route clearance missions to find roadside bombs.

"It's definitely a combat role," she said. "We're always out in front of other units and hopefully the civilians to protect them from the bombs that are out there."

As some recent surveys and experiences have shown, it will not be an easy transition. When the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered and both failed to complete the course. And there may not be a wide clamoring from women for the more intense, dangerous and difficult jobs - including some infantry and commando positions.

Additionally, some critics say women cannot handle the physical demands on the front lines as well as male soldiers.

Critics are focusing on the wrong thing, said Lentz.

"Like they say, there is no front line anymore. But I guess my perspective on it is we always focus on gender or race. We should focus on individuals," she said. "If you can pass the standards, no matter who you are, you should be able to do the job that is required of you."

The military branches of services will have years to implement the change, giving them time to assess each job and unit.

It is possible they make seek exemptions for some units, such as special operations forces.

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