The Maino Project: Women in Combat
Photo: Video by nbc26.com
DE PERE, Wis.--The number of women serving our country in uniform is at an all time high. But until recently the official rule was that women could not serve on the front-lines in a combat unit. Well, that's changed, but to women such as De Pere's Kristy Van Lanen an Iraq vet, the front-line isn't unfamiliar territory
"As far as being over there, you get used it," Kristy explains. "You get used to the poor conditions. You get to used to you know cold food and living in tents and all that kind of stuff. .
Her job in the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion required constant travel outside the relative safety of her home base. Outside the wire. Basically enemy territory, which makes the controversy over women on the front lines in her eyes a little ironic. "Well, it's funny to me because what we say and define as the front lines It's a very gray area, you know. I mean in the last ten years with Iraq and Afghanistan, females have been out there everyday on a regular basis going outside the wire. And anytime you leave the wire, anytime you go off base, you're potentially in harms way."
Critics cite potential problems associated with males and females working this closely together. Van Lanen disagrees. "Very different than what people think. People think well you can't live together what are you going to do with hygiene," Kristy told me. "What are you going to do with living conditions very different. Even my first tour when I served with an all-male marine unit. It was an adjustment at first. They've never worked with females before. But you figure it out so fast. You adjust to it and when you are actually on the same team together it doesn't make a difference.
No matter the mission females in the unit can provide a resource just not possible for men in the delicate balance of the middle east.
(John Maino: "Did you ever have to bite your tongue when you came back if somebody said oh you're a woman..you didn't really see combat?" Kristy: "Yes, especially when I have people say well did you carry a gun out there? So yes, absolutely..quite a bit.