Jennifer Hunt of Gaithersburg, Md., among 4 Military Women Suing Dept. of Defense Over Combat Exclusion Policy

11:28 PM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WUSA) -  Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt faced her most terrifying day while riding in a Humvee in Iraq in 2007. "My vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb while we were out on patrol. At first, I wasn't really sure what had happened because there was this kind of big thump and then our Humvee started to fill with smoke, it started to get cloudy,"  she said.

When all was said and done, there was blood streaked across the windshield, Hunt has shrapnel wounds and a burn, and her colleagues were hurt.  

"Everyone started doing what they needed to do to make sure everyone was okay, help out the casualties, the people that were more injured than us, get out of the area, make sure there weren't more things coming down, there weren't people that were going to be shooting at us, or there weren't secondary devices that were going to be blowing up other vehicles, " she said.

And Hunt's role during that time? "There, I worked on micro-grant projects for local Iraqi businesses."

Hunt job wasn't to be fighting on the front lines, yet there she was. The married mom of a toddler says the military's policy of excluding women from direct combat roles below the brigade level is unconstitutional, and the front lines have no boundary.

She and four other military women are suing the Department of Defense. The other plaintiffs are Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell, Marine 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell and Air Force Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar.

Hunt shares, "I think the reality is for these wars is there are no frontlines. So, even if you're in an area where it doesn't seem that dangerous, it can get very dangerous very quickly."

The Department of Defense says it's not its policy to comment on pending litigation. They say they've recently opened up 14,000 jobs to women, but there are still about 238,000 positions they won't let women perform.

DoD Spokesperson Eileen M. Lainez says, "The recent openings are the beginning, not the end, of a process. The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened to women. Our goal is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender."

Anu Bhagwati, of the Service Women's Action Network, says even if DoD opens up the remaining positions, it's unlikely women will take them all. "This is a matter of a few women perhaps being given the opportunity to fulfill those assignments, not every woman wants to be an infantryman, not every woman wants to be a Navy seal, just like not every man wants to be an infantryman or wants to be in special operations, " Bhagwati said.

Hunt recovered quickly from her shrapnel wounds and burns. Since then, she's married her husband, and given birth to a little girl. She's still in the Army Reserves. But, as time has moved on, she says the military should too. "Women have already proven themselves able and willing to fight in combat roles and this policy doesn't reflect the reality of all the women who have served honorably and it's time to change it, " she said.

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