msnbc | January 26, 2013
>>> a new poll finds the nation strongly in support of the pentagon's announcement that women will be able to serve combat roles in the military. gallup reports 74% in favor of the decision. and the numbers hold up when you break it down by sex. joining me now is mary jennings-hagar. she served two tours of duty in afghanistan, also injured in combat when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down. m.j., such a pleasure to have you on the back.
>> good morning, alex .
>> in life, as we all know, there are no guarantees of success. not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier. but everyone is entitled to a chance.
>> and when you heard that, what did you think?
>> that he completely understands where where we're coming from. that's what we're asking for. nobody is asking for fwaurn tguaranteed positions many we're asked for the opportunity to compete, based on skill rather than gender.
>> you are one of the women that brought the lawsuit. was it evident when you brought the case that the pentagon would change its stance?
>> you know, alex , i have to be honest, i've been hoping all along and saying candidly, i thought leon panetta was the secretary of defense that would lift this ban. i felt like given his history this was something he would understand. the fact that it came as a suggestion unanimously from the joint chiefs makes it very validating for me. being in the military, so it's not -- the people who don't want things dictated to the military, they can't say that now, because the joint chiefs do what's in the military's best interest and recognize the policy is damaging.
>> the lawsuit how does it stand now? is it dropped?
>> i can't really speak to the legal, technical aspects. from what i understand, the lawsuit continues until we see something in writing that satisfies all the stipulations of the lawsuit. but this is what we were hoping for.
>> what about the op-ed arguing that both men and women would feel humiliated in front of each other due to sanitary issues of infantry combat, having to shower in the open, lots of nudity there. what did you think about that?
>> you know, i have to be honest, it kind of made me chuckle and makes me happy that the opposition's arguments have come down to this. we have successfully combatted everything else they have thrown at us. this is absolutely not an issue. i've been forward deployed with delta force for months at a time. a ten-hour mission on a helicopter where both pilots have to pee next to each other to be blunt. you allow us to train together so we see each other as peers and not as a new person coming into my unit and then you look at her as a female. once we're viewed as equals, this won't be an issue, and honestly if i'm in a marine and in the front lines and that's my concern, then maybe i should be thinking about a different career.
>> look at this. 152 people killed in iraq and afghanistan. you were injured seriously while piloting a helicopter and going in to make sure you left no one behind and you got to the people who had been injured you were trying to rescue. i mean, have women been in de facto combat roles even before this policy change?
>> that's exactly the heart of the issue. everybody wanted to make the debate about whether or not women should be in combat. the actual issue is that women are in combat. engaging the enemy, acting with valor, serving and just not being recognized. and i don't mean recognized with awards, i mean recognized with the correct job title that will get them promoted and recognized by getting the same training opportunities and that type of thing. so it's more about equal treatment and not about, you know, let's allow women into combat now.
>> m.j., quickly, something so disturbing. the reports of sexual assault in the military. we'll have numbers thrown up about the increase at military academies this past year. why is this problem so privilege prevalent?
>> i'm not an expert. but from the studies i've looked at, most people would probably agree. sexual assault is not about sexual gratification and not about opportunity. when it doesn't happen, it's not because there doesn't happen to be a woman around. if you are a predator and you want to commit that heinous act, you will find a way to do that. the way you fix it, you stop allow people to view other people as inferior and as objects and something that's appropriate for. that's a discipline and leadership issue and an issue not to be solved by punishing the potential victims by hampering their careers.
>> m.j., major hagar, absolutely a pleasure to talk with you. one of our nation's heroes.
>> my pleasure, alex .