msnbc | January 25, 2013
>>> now the ban has been officially lifted on women serving on the front lines of combat, the question becomes how and when the pentagon makes its ranks more gender neutral. leon panetta offered up his thoughts to those critics out there.
>> 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.
>> everyone entitled to a chance. joining me now, retired u.s. marine corps captain beirnese armor, the first african- american woman to become a pilot in the marine corps . it's great to have you with us. i'm sure this is really exciting news for you as you think about your history in our military service . i want to tell everyone that 152 women , and remind them, they have been killed in the iraq and afghanistan war . so advocates say it affirms what many have already said is happening, but in real terms, and in your opinion, how will this impact women serving on the front lines ?
>> you know, honestly, it's -- we're formalizing what is already happening. and when i enlisted in the army back in 1993 , women were not allowed to even be combat pilots in the military. so history has changed even while i have been a service member. and formalizing it now and broadening the opportunities for women , not to just serve and fight by their side their brothers like they are doing now but also the promotions and the careers. it's well deserved. and women have already proven that we can be there and we deserve to be there. and without women out there, and on the front lines , like they are right now, our military couldn't do the job that it's doing now as efficiently and productively.
>> captain, what do you say to those who draw questions and have questions about the physicality of war, whether they would say that women don't have enough upper body strength, that they can't run as fast as male soldiers, that their monthly cycle could interfere with being on the front line . these are all the same arguments that women have heard about being able to serve in the military in the first place.
>> right. every woman won't be able to make the standards, and every man isn't able to make the standards. i can do more push-ups and pull-ups than some of the guys out there. so it's not a question of lowering standards. and, you know, the menstrual cycle , i'm pretty sure the women who want to volunteer for that know how to handle themselves physically. women aren't debilitated when that time of our physiology takes over. we still perform in corporate america , police officers , law enforcement . there's a documentary that's being produced right now called " unsung heroes " by frank martin . and it really catalogs the history of women in the military from the beginning. we need to reeducate america on what women are capable of and again what we're already doing.
>> you bring up a point about that documentary, that film that's being done. there's this other documentary out called the " invisible war " nominated for an oscar that talks about the fact there are so many women and men that face nefarious sexual assaults and don't really have a voice to raise, to get things adjudicated properly. do you have concerns, though, about the cultural environment of the infantry based on how women have been treated so far?
>> you know, i have to have some strand of faith that our leadership knows how to take this initiative forward. should women be punished or said they can't be a part of our military in certain ways just because the men would be unruly or take advantage of the women ? sexual assault is a problem in our military. hands down. men are assaulted just as well as women . so it's a problem that we need to take care of universally, militarywise.
>> captain vernice "flygirl" armour. i just figured out flygirl is your nickname, right?
>> it is. it is.
>> all right. i just want to make sure that i had that correctly. captain, we really appreciate your time and insights on this really important issue. thank you.