By Roger McKinney
JOPLIN, Mo. —
“Big step” and “open doors” were phrases used Thursday by some of those describing what they thought about the announcement that the Pentagon is lifting the ban on women serving in military combat.
The sentiment was not universal.
Janene Woodruff, battalion commander of the Junior ROTC at Joplin High School, said the move would open more jobs to women. The 17-year-old senior said she wants to be an Army nurse after going to college.
“I think women can do anything they put their minds to,” Woodruff said. “I think it’s a big step for women. They’re being viewed as equal.”
Woodruff also participated in a class discussion about the issue led by 18-year-old Cadet Tiffany Garcia, a senior.
“Any time there is progress, there are going to be people who don’t want to see that change,” Woodruff said.
Tyler Wyeth, 18, a senior, has joined the Marine Corps.
“If a woman can do it, why not?” he said. “We need as many people skilled at that profession as possible.”
He said women are capable of doing anything men can do, with the proper training.
Kelsey Pickard, an 18-year-old senior, already is serving in the Army Reserve.
“I don’t really agree with it,” Pickard said. “I think they should be able to do everything else, but not be on the front line.”
Pickard said she thinks men are more equipped to cope with the emotional impact of killing someone.
“I don’t really think they realize what they would be getting into,” she said about women serving in combat roles.
Senior Chris Hanshaw, 17, goes into Army basic training on May 28, nine days after he is to graduate. He said there are good and bad aspects to women serving in combat.
“Women have a better thinking process than men,” he said. “But women may have more breakdowns or emotional problems. I feel like women are more emotional than men.”
Still, he said he would be comfortable serving beside a woman in combat.
“I’d feel very comfortable,” Hanshaw said. “We’d both have the same training. We’d both be taking orders from a commanding officer.”
Their teacher, Col. Paul Norris, during class discussion said he entered the military when the first influx of women entered the armed forces. He said there were many of the same discussions then, but now women serving in the military is the norm.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., both serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and both said lifting the ban on combat for military women is the right move.
“I think women have been more and more frequently in combat roles as the front gets harder and harder to define,” Blunt said during a conference call to Missouri reporters. He said not every woman will want to serve in combat, nor will every man.
“I actually think it’s probably going to work out just fine,” Blunt said. “It was an inevitable conclusion for the military to reach.”
McCaskill shared the sentiment, in a statement emailed to the Globe.
“Women have been serving heroically in combat for years — with no less ability or proficiency than their male counterparts,” she said. “I’m glad that their service and sacrifice are finally being officially and fully embraced.”
Marshall Hogue, of Joplin, is a captain in the Army Reserve. He served in a military police unit at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq. He said he has served side-by-side with women during his 18 years as a military police officer, and it has never been an issue. He noted that his is considered a combat support role, not combat.
“I’ve served with competent and strong women and competent and strong men,” Hogue said. “I want to serve with competent people, no matter what gender.”
He said he also has served with both men and women who were neither competent nor strong.
Hogue said there are a lot of issues to consider by military leaders before sending women into combat. He said though he is a big guy, he wouldn’t be able to carry some of the guns that combat soldiers are required to carry.
He said allowing women to serve in combat will lead to more women reaching the top ranks in the military.
Kristina Willis, of Pittsburg, Kan., a 20-year-old senior at Pittsburg State University, is in the ROTC program at PSU and on the basketball team. She plans a career in the military after graduation.
“It’s going to open more doors for women,” Willis said of the move. “I think it will broaden the careers we’re able to pursue.”
She said that statement applies to careers within and outside of the military.
Willis said she doesn’t know yet what branch of the military she will enter.
“I’ve got a lot more options to think about now,” she said.