FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: December 3, 2015
Media Contact: Sue Fulton
Opening Roles to Qualified Women Will “Make the Army Stronger,” Combat Vets Say
Their Experience Validates that “Valor Knows No Gender”
Washington, DC – Opening combat roles to qualified women will make the Army stronger, say Army veterans who have seen how women have performed in the last decade of war. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced today that ground combat roles in the Army, previously closed to women, would be open to all who meet the standards.
Representing US military veterans who agree that “valor knows no gender,” several spoke out today in response.
“Our Army is strong because of the people who serve. I’ve learned – in peacetime and combat – that our force is powerful because of who they are, what they believe, and why their serve the nation,” shared former U.S. Army Europe Commander retired Army Lt. General Mark Hertling. “That is irrespective of color, creed or sex. I’ve seen women who are qualified, and who want, to serve in combat units yet in the past they have been prevented from doing so. To me, that’s contrary to who we are as a nation, and as an army. This decision is a long time coming, and we should allow anyone to serve in the positions for which they are qualified, no matter the sex.”
“When women Soldiers graduated Ranger School, that should have put away all doubts about the ability of women to fight,” said retired Lt. Col. Chuck Schretzman, who served with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. “I have seen women who have more courage, commitment, and physical strength than some men I have known – I would fight beside any of them.”
Schretzman, a 1989 West Point graduate, served 26 years in the infantry, with four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star, as well as the Legion of Merit.
“This isn’t about whether women fight in combat; they already have. This is about whether we train women to fight in combat,” said Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Jon Silk. “If someone says women can’t fight in combat today, I’d like to know what their combat experience is. Because based on my experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know women MPs fight just like I did as a Cavalry Scout, and just like men in the other Armor and Infantry units.”
Silk served as an infantryman for 13 years before commissioning as an Armor officer. After being hit in the chest in a firefight in Iraq, he fought to stay on active duty and commanded troops in Afghanistan before retiring at the rank of Major.
“Every commander wants to field the strongest, most effective unit that he can – and the science demonstrates that diverse groups are better at complex tasks in changing environments,” said former Infantry officer Mike Piro. “In Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders on the ground often bent the rules to assign a woman to a ‘male’ job in their unit, because she made the unit better. This policy change makes the Army stronger.”
Piro, a West Point graduate, Airborne and Ranger-qualified, deployed twice to Iraq and was twice awarded the Bronze Star.
Readiness First is an organization of US military veterans who believe that a diverse force is a stronger force.
We believe that what counts in a warrior are competence, character, and commitment – nothing else.
We believe that honor, courage, and strength are not reserved to any single gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
We believe that artificial barriers driven by prejudice make our Armed Forces less agile, less responsive, and less effective.