Area military women receptive to combat service

“You never know, this may open opportunities for me when I get to higher ranks of intel,” Angel Johnson, a senior cadet at The Citadel, said Wednesday. Buy this photo

As a female combat photographer twice-wounded in action, Stacy Pearsall has seen war through a lens and personally up close.

So with history being made today, she whole-heartedly supports the idea of women serving their country as front-line troops.

Limitations based on sex “are as archaic as limitations that were based on race or religion,” the Goose Creek resident said.

Service “should be based on talents and abilities,” Pearsall added, “and not one’s gender.”

Moments after word came down that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will remove the military’s ban on females serving in front-line combat units, potentially thousands of South Carolina women suddenly face the chance of becoming eligible for new duties at the forefront of military action.

Others may even gain entry into previously closed elite commando units that are expected to dominate U.S. response strategy for decades.

Some of those women will potentially come from The Citadel, where new career-path opportunities will officially come open today for current and future members of the Corps of Cadets.

“If they haven’t made their career decision yet, this might change it,” senior Angel Johnson said Wednesday of women still formulating their future. She is on track to graduate in May and plans to serve in Air Force intelligence.

Panetta’s move will overturn a 1994 rule that had prohibited women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units, or just the sort of duties that have been routinely called on in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The services have until January 2016 to list any special or specific exemptions for duties they contend should remain closed to females, such as Special Forces or other similar units.

Pearsall’s story shows women already face — and share — the risk of military action. As an Air Force staff sergeant in 2007, she was riding in a convoy of military vehicles north of Baghdad when the lead vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. The convoy was ambushed.

Pearsall manned a machine gun while others raced to help the wounded under more fire. She was wounded in the attack, the second time she had been hurt in action that started with an IED blast.

Meanwhile, it’s been nearly 20 years since women were allowed into the previously closed and male-dominated world of The Citadel.

They now hold 156 of the school’s 2,277 enrollment spots, or about 7 percent.

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