Military personnel react to women in combat ban being lifted - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Military personnel react to women in combat ban being lifted

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Sara Yoke spent a year of her life in Afghanistan with the West Virginia National Army Guard.

"You don't feel that same type of fulfillment with any other job as a civilian," said Yoke, 26, who served as a military journalist.

But while Yoke, a Saint Albans native, said she applauds Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's decision to lift the ban on women in combat roles, she said only some women should fight in crossfire.

"Women should have to meet the same requirements as men, whether it's the physical aspects of the job or mental toughness," she said." I think there's standards for a reason, and they have to meet those standards."

This lift would open up thousands of frontline positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war in the Middle East.

The groundbreaking move, recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

The military services have until January 2016 to ask for special exceptions if they believe any positions should remain closed to women.

Lt. Col. Fred Chance heads the JROTC Air Force program at South Charleston High School.

He said the Pentagon's announcement is a good one--especially for the females in his class.

"They wouldn't put people in that position who wouldn't be able to fend for themselves," said Chance, who is also a veteran.

At the National Guard Recruiting Office in Charleston, they're still unsure whether this change will attract more women to enlist, or how they'll tailor recruitment tactics. But they do know this:

"We have always had a diverse National Guard," said Msg. D. L. Hunter, an area supervisor. "This may make it more diverse, just open up new jobs for women."

But it could take a while to get there. Both Yoke and Chance mentioned it could take months before military leaders actually lift the ban. It took nearly a year for leaders to officially lift the "don't ask, don't tell" policy after lawmakers voted to repeal in 2010.

Yoke said she's unsure if she'd ever switch to combat, but she'd love to return to duty.

Her father, Alan Yoke, said he's proud of her. But she's still his daughter.

"I'm a father," he said. "You worry about your kids whether they're fighting a war in another country or driving back and forth to school."