In what is being called a monumental move by the Department of Defense, the military ban on women serving in combat roles is being lifted. It's a long-awaited step for women everywhere, including on Fort Drum. Our Brian Dwyer sat down with a couple of Drum's female soldiers who say today, they're that much prouder to represent the red, white and blue.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- "I fundamentally believe our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability, on qualifications and on performance," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday.
It's a day many women in uniform never thought they'd see. Panetta announcing the military is dropping its ban on women serving in combat roles.
"Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to a chance," he said.
Words that echoed throughout Fort Drum Thursday.
"I think a lot of females are taking it as a great day in the military," Fort Drum Soldier Sgt. Amanda Halpin said.
"It's a great accomplishment," 1st Lieutenant Ashley Rohls added. "It opens up a lot of great opportunities for women that I think most women are going to be excited about honestly."
Adn although most of the training a soldier gets when he or she signs up is the same, currently in the Army, women are excluded from about one out of every four jobs. This move will open up about 200,000 spots for women nationwide.
For a few months now, Ashley Rohls has been in a pilot program called WITA, Women in the Army, giving them front line training and experience.
"They're looking to see if you can do the job and if you can do it well," she said. "If you pass that test, they accept you as an equal."
Of course a decision like this will always have its detractors. Can women actually do the job? Will they be a distraction? Will they be safe in this male-dominated world?
"In my experience, it's been as long as I'm competent in my job and proficient in my job, then I'm accepted irregardless of my gender," 1st. Lt. Rohls said.
"We're all trained to be professionals," Sgt. Halpin added. "I think as professionals, we need to not let having a female be in combat arms distract us. It shouldn't matter if it's a female or a male beside you."
These women also pointing out the family aspect in all of this. Soldiers trained and believing in doing all they can for each other.
"You're with them almost 365 days a year, more than your family. You grow that bond with them that you put your life in their hand and they put their life in your hand."
It's expected that the selection process for putting women in these jobs could happen in May.
Senior commanders will have three years to ask for exceptions to this new rule, but will have to show why a woman can't do it.