Local women who served in military react to combat decision - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Local women who served in military react to combat decision

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Retired Army SFC Jacqueline Franklin talks about Pentagon's decision. Retired Army SFC Jacqueline Franklin talks about Pentagon's decision.

New Orleans, La. — Two local women who served in the U.S. Army during some of America's recent wars have different perspectives on the Pentagon's decision to lift the ban on women in ground combat.

"I'm a soldier, you know, and women are soldiers, men are soldiers," said retired Army Sgt. First Class Jacqueline Franklin.

Franklin joined the Army at 20 years old and retired two decades later. She is thrilled about the news that the U.S. Dept. of Defense will no longer bar female soldiers from combat roles.

"I literally screamed and jumped up because we fought so hard," said Franklin.

The decision announced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta overturns a 1994 rule which prohibited women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.  Panetta said women have shown they are willing to fight and die alongside their male counterparts.

As a trained paratrooper, Franklin knows what it is like to be held back because of gender.  "They had all the task force there that did insurgent missions, and went in... I couldn't be assigned to them because I was a woman," she said of her airborne unit.

Franklin said she would not have hesitated to fight alongside male soldiers, had she been given the chance.  "In a heartbeat, in heartbeat," she continued.

Former Army Specialist Roxanne Legere now works at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.  She speaks favorably of her time in the military.

"I wouldn't trade it for the world, pretty much.  It was tough, but worth it," Legere said.

She was in Baghdad during the "Desert Storm" campaign, but she is not sold on women being on the front lines of battle.

"I believe that both sides have a valid argument.  I think that women have proven themselves to be able to put up with the stamina that's needed in those times.  However, other physical issues such as hygiene... like combat soldiers will go often weeks or more without a real shower," Legere said.

She believes there may be times when a woman's presence could cost lives.  "Most of our male soldiers adhere to traditional gender roles... If a male soldier was faced with a decision in combat,he would risk the mission and maybe even other soldiers' lives to save a woman," she said.

Even though the ban on women serving in combat roles is being lifted, top military leaders will have to decide whether some specific jobs should remain males only, such as roles with the Army's elite Delta Force, or the Navy SEAL's.

"I wouldn't want a female or a male with me that was not qualified to do the job. I don't want anything changed for us, just give us the mission, train us properly," said Franklin.

"If you were to increase the number of females in combat [then] you would increase, it's reasonable to think, the amount of deaths of females in combat," stated Legere.

"It's like anything in life -- what are you willing to lay down your life for?" asked Franklin.

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