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ACLU, Women Soldiers Sue Defense Department Over Combat Roles

Four female soldiers, ACLU say Department of Defense doing women disservice


Four American female soldiers, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, are suing the Department of Defense over its restrictions on women in combat.

The ACLU announced its lawsuit at a news conference on Tuesday.

It’s asking for the DoD to remove restrictions against women serving in combat units, US News reported.

With US Armed Forces increasingly embroiled in conflicts without clear “front lines,” women are more regularly put in harm’s way, but they don’t receive the same recognition as men in their units, the lawsuit says.

“It’s harming women in the field now,” ACLU lawyer Elizabeth Gill told US News. “Our clients in this case have served in capacities where they’re shot at by enemy fire, they’re engaged, they’re attached to combat units. ... They're fighting in exactly the same circumstances as men.”

This lawsuit is in addition to an earlier case announced in May.

The ACLU said that while the Pentagon has pledged to review combat rules for women, it's moving too slowly. The DoD didn’t comment, US News reported.

The four women suing the government are all combat veterans.

Maj. Mary Hegar now flies helicopters for the California Air National Guard after serving with the Air Force for five years as a maintenance officer.

She’s completed three tours in Afghanistan, receiving a Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross after completing a search-and-rescue mission three years ago in Afghanistan.

Her craft was shot down, and Hegar herself was shot, but she still completed her mission.

Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell twice deployed to Afghanistan where she served as Officer-in-Charge of Female Engagement Teams (FETs).

Bedell graduated with honors from The Basic School, the first phase of Marine Corps officer training. She ranked in the top 10 percent among roughly 300 Marines for the 26 week course.

Marine Corps First Lt. Colleen Farrell has served as a section leader of Female Engagement Teams (FETs) in Afghanistan.

Farrell managed between 12 and 20 FET members who would go out on patrols with infantry, doing outreach and intelligence and assessing security issues while also interacting with Afghan women.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt is a noncommissioned officer in the Army Reserves. She enlisted after the Sept. 11 attacks and has deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 2007, Hunt’s Humvee hit a roadside bomb, and she suffered injuries to her face, arms, and back.

In a blog post on the ACLU website, Hegar said the military’s policy make no sense. It limits the pool of applicants for dangerous jobs while ignoring the work women are already doing.

“They shoot, they return fire, they drag wounded comrades to safety and they engage with the enemy, and they have been doing this for years,” Hegar writes.

“They risk their lives for their country, and the combat exclusion policy does them a great disservice.”