The South Dakota Army National Guard has enlisted its first female to serve in a combat role. She's Hamlin County High School junior Stephanie Kasten. She'll be joining the 147th Filed Artillery in Sioux Falls as a Multiple Launch Rocket System crew member.
Last week the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles. The Defense Department says the change is to ensure the best qualified and most capable service members, regardless of gender, are available to carry out the mission.
The South Dakota Army National Guard says Kasten's enlistment doesn't pertain to the Pentagon's announcement. While, Kasten is the first female to serve in the 147th Filed Artillery in Sioux Falls as a Multiple Launch Rocket System crew member, her enlistment is not a result of the ban lift. As of Sept 1, 2012, women were allowed to serve in artillery units.
Members of the 235th Military Police of the South Dakota Army National Guard are packing their bags for another deployment to Afghanistan. That includes Specialist Brandy Houck. As an MP, she often carries a weapon and supports women in combat roles.
"I think it's a good thing. There really isn't a front line anymore so the Army needs to adapt and whoever can fill the slot should be allowed to fill the slot," Houck said.
The military says the decision opens up about 237,000 positions to women; jobs they weren't allowed to perform in the past. Plus, Houck says some jobs are more suited for women when there are cultural differences.
"A lot of times as females, we are embedded with the Marines, so we can search the females for them, so that's the way we are adapting to customs overseas," Houck said.
"To me, I have been in combat, I was deployed in May of 2010 to May of 2011. We served alongside men, who served in combat before, and we were put in harms way every single day," 2d Lt Becky Linder of the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade said.
Critics say women might not be able to perform some of the more physically demanding jobs. Houck disagrees with that position.
"There are some females who are just as strong as the men and we will push ourselves just as hard to do the job as a man can do," Houck said.
"If there's a woman who is qualified for a position over a man that they are going to get it, it's whoever is the most qualified for that position," Linder said.
Overall, women make up about 14 percent of the active duty military. According to the Defense Department, 152 females have been killed in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.