Hardball | January 24, 2013
>>> in life as we all know, there are no guarantees of succe success. not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. but everyone is entitled to a chance.
>> welcome back to "hardball." that was defense secretary leon panetta today as he overturned a 1994 ban on women serving in combat. the truth is american women have been in combat in both iraq and afghanistan but they have been prevented from advancing to some higher ranking positions within the military. panetta said decisions going forward must not be made based upon gender but on qualifications.
>> i fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability, on qualifications, and on performance. when i have gone to bethesda to visit wounded warriors and when i have gone to arlington to bury our dead, there is no distinction that's made between the sacrifices of men and women in uniform . they serve, they're wounded, and they die right next to each other. the time has come to recognize that reality.
>> with me tonight are u.s. congresswoman tammy duckworth of illinois who lost both her legs actually when her blackhawk helicopter went down in iraq in 2004 . she's also a lieutenant colonel in the illinois army national guard and captain zoe badell served two deployments in afghanistan and is in the marine corps reserves . fought a federal lawsuit fighting the ban on women in come bb combat. congresswoman, i want you to tell me if you can, delineate before today what were the restrictions or limits on what a woman could do as opposed to a male serving officer or enlisted person in the united states military .
>> so, chris, women were not allowed to serve in specific jobs. in the army those combat jobs were infantry , armor, artillery. there's a whole list of them. for example, a woman could not become a field artillery officer. the only combat arms branch in the army that was open to women was aviation which is what i became. didn't mean women weren't serving in come ban and the army recognized that and awards the combat action badge to show that you were engaged in direct combat. so there's two different policies. there's a little bit of a split between the old system that says that women can't serve in these jobs but then also recognizing, oh, yeah, but you are engaging in combat action.
>> but they weren't in the military, artillery or armor.
>> right. infantry , artillery, armor. there's a whole lost of particular jobs you couldn't get into.
>> captain, thank you for joining us and thank you for your service as well. thank you to the congresswoman. tell us why you made your suit, what you think was unjust, what do you think has now been changed?
>> well, i served for four years in the marine corps . i did two tours in afghanistan and i was in charge of a group of female marines who were overseas patrolling with infantry marines every day and who saw combat, who were in firefights who are tr getted by roadside bombs. i knew that what was happening over there was not in line with what the policy was saying and that policy made it more difficult for to us accomplish our mission. it also made it harder for my marines to get recognition for the work they were doing. when the aclu approached me, it was an easy decision to make.
>> so in effect were women actually working in these units that were apparently banned like artillery, armor, and infantry or were they not? were they limited to the aerial -- the choppers and the other aircraft? let me go back to the congresswoman? what in effect was the reality of a guy or a woman serving in the military that they would have experienced up until today, the reality.
>> sure. the reality is, chris, for example, we had infantry units that would have a female medic or supply sergeant attached to them but not assigned. if you are assigned to a unit, then you belong to that unit and you're part of the unit but they would attack a medic or supply sergeant and they would go with the infantry men on their door to door house to house searches but they needed the women there to search female civilians that they would come across. so the women were engaging in the same firefights, doing the exact same thing, but they were not seen as being combat troops. and so women are already doing these jobs but they were not being recognized as doing it and these units couldn't have the women there and would have to go and look and search for women to volunteer to be attached to them and could not train them alongside the men in infantry training because the women were not technically infantry soldiers.
>> captain, when a woman joins the military today, will it be different? will she be exposed to being put into an infantry unit a front line grunt position where she would have to take that hill -- get out there and take that hill mcgee? will they be put in that position or do you see the law being enforced a different way like a woman would have the option of going to the front line service? i don't know the answer. what is the answer?
>> you know, i don't know the answer at this point either. i'm not sure that those details have come out and if they are i haven't seen them yet.
>> what's your position having fought the suit. do you think women should be vulnerable to the same kind of assignments or it should be an option for them where it may not be an option for men to be assigned to some really terrible duty like take that hill. you got your rifle.
>> i think the assignment process should work the same for men and women . that's what we've been asking for, we've been skag for equality. for officers for example you have to compete for the position. you don't get assigned against your choice necessarily. and we want the opportunity to compete for those positions.
>> you think it's going to encourage recruitment of women into the military? the fact that it will be equal service, equal opportunity , if you will?
>> i think it will encourage recruitment and i want to make a note that for the infantry -- for the enlisted jobs when you are enlisting into the military whether you're a man or woman, you're enlisting into a specific military occupational specialty . you're choosing on your day of enlistment as a man whether you want --
>> that wasn't the way it was in the '60s. that was not the way it was in the '60s. because you could apply to be a pio which i was thinking of doing and i never believed that you were guaranteed that pio job. could you have just -- i wanted to write liker ni pile and you'd just be a grunt like everybody else. i never trusted that. i'm glad to know you can get assignment. thank you for your service. congresswoman, it's great to have you in congress and, captain, thank you for coming on the show and educating us here. we'd love to have you back.
>>> up next, senator dianne feinstein introduced a ban on assault weapons today. she did it again. she did it well the first time and succeeded the first time. this is "hardball," the place for politics.