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Few Carson women choose combat opportunity

Nov. 30, 2012 - 12:56PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 30, 2012 - 12:56PM  |  
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FORT CARSON, Colo. — Supporters of a plan to increase opportunities for female soldiers in combat say many women have concerns about applying for combat positions made available through a pilot project at Fort Carson.

Fewer than one in five of the women offered a chance to move into combat-related positions at Fort Carson took advantage of the opportunity through the project, which is ending soon, the http://www.gazette.com/articles/fort-147908-carson-women.html">Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

Of the 343 soldiers eligible to move into the new positions at Fort Carson, 59 asked to do so, said Maj. Earl Brown, a Fort Carson spokesman. Forty ultimately were assigned to those posts.

The news follows a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco challenging a ban on women in combat. The lawsuit was filed by four women — three reservists and a Marine set to move from active duty to reserve — and is the second suit filed this year over the ban.

Ariela Migdal, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing the women suing the Defense Department, said the new positions mean little to many women who want to serve in infantry units, which remain off-limits to women.

"What they're doing in a lot of cases is opening up positions for women in jobs that women are already allowed to do," Migdal said.

The Fort Carson pilot project allowed women to request a transfer into four jobs previously off-limits to them, including tank, artillery and Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle maintenance. A fourth job allowed women to be radar operators subject to enemy fire.

"I think maybe initially, there's just a general hesitation to jump in with both feet into uncharted territory, which is sort of basic human nature," said Greg Jacob, policy director at Service Women's Action Network, a New York-based organization aimed at equal rights for women in the military.

Opponents of the ban say 238,000 women were barred from positions across the armed forces, blocking them from promotions and other advancements open to men in combat.

Defense Department officials and the women who filed suit say combat lines began to blur in Iraq and Afghanistan, where men and women fought side-by-side and often faced the same suicide bombers. More than 144 female troops have been killed and 860 have been wounded in the two wars, according to Pentagon statistics.

Defense Department officials say they want to make sure lifting gender-based barriers would not disrupt military regimen.

Fort Carson's program began May 14. In addition to the jobs posted, some brigade-level jobs, including chaplain and field surgeon, were made available closer to the front lines.

Brown said the Army is reviewing the post's program.

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