Locals offer opinions on women serving in combat roles

January 26, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Fred and Jeannie Shinbur both retired from careers in U.S. Army and remain active in veterans affairs.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Army veteran Jeannie Shinbur says there are conditions under which she thinks women should have the right to serve in combat roles in the military.

“The physical standards should not be changed to accommodate women, but if they can meet the requirements and wish to move into those kinds of roles, I think that’s great,” said Shinbur, 58, who lives outside of Funkstown.

Having the right to step into a combat role “will open certain other branches and roles to women and certainly provide more opportunities for women to grow in leadership positions in the military,” she said.

Shinbur retired as Deputy District Area Commander for the Washington, D.C. Army National Guard in 2003.

Her husband, Fred Shinbur, who served in Vietnam in 1968-69, and retired from the Army as Chief Warrant Officer 5, in 2003, agreed with his wife.

The U.S. Defense Department announced on Thursday that it would no longer exclude female service members from direct ground combat.

The decision opened up about 237,000 positions to women, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Women possibly could serve as members of elite special operation forces, including the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy SEALS.

Korean War veteran John Koontz, of Hagerstown, said he does not believe women should serve in combat.

“How is a lady going to go to the bathroom in combat?” Koontz, 80, said. “A man is probably a whole lot stronger leg-wise and back-wise.”

Fred Shinbur said, however, that the change has “been a long time coming.”

“I’ve had female supervisors in my chain, so I’m accustomed to following the orders and directions of females, and there were many women that were far more physically fit than me and other men,” he said.

“If they don’t lower the standards for the requirements of being in infantry or combat positions, those females that can meet those same requirements as men should have the opportunity.”

According to published reports, no physical standards will be lowered.

Col. Roger Nye, commander of the 167th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard in West Virginia, said he supported giving everybody “the same opportunities” in the military.

“We have a great number of women who are in jobs very close to the action and in the action,” he said. “Society has changed and made strides toward equal opportunities, and the military is a microcosm of society.”

Jill England, of Hagerstown, who served as a U.S. Army nurse from 1972 to 1977, said she has reservations about the Pentagon’s decision to allow women into combat.

England, 60, who left the Army as a captain, said that although women may like the idea of going into combat, she is not sure they are prepared for the “gruesome” parts of the job.

She also said she is concerned that men in combat units would worry about women in their units and wonders how that would affect the units.

England also expressed concern for women being sent to duty and leaving children behind.

“I think people should be thinking about that,” England said.

Women make up about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active U.S. military personnel, and 152 women have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sharpsburg American Legion Auxiliary United 236 Chairwoman Ava Gift said that she supports the decision because it does not change anything that many women serving their country are doing anyway.

“Any time you are in a battle area, you always have a chance of combat and are in danger,” she said. “Women know how to multitask. They can hold their own and have proven that time and time again.”

Morris Frock American Legion Post 42 Commander Kevin Poole, of Hagerstown, said that the decision is an “excellent idea.”

“Women have served our country honorably throughout the history of it,” he said. “They can step up to the plate and make good combat soldiers.”

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