Lufkin Lt. General shares thoughts on women serving in combat

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Pentagon's decision to lift a decade old ban on women serving in combat has received support from a Lieutenant General in Lufkin. For more than thirty years, Lieutenant General Orren R. Whiddon served on the battlefield with women who relentlessly defended their country, but there's one question that always came up.

"Can a woman perform to the standards of everyone else in a combat situation? I think that's the real issue," Whiddon said.

He explained women's roles in previous wars to answer the question.

"We had a few women in nursing jobs but most of them were in the jobs that soldiers of all backgrounds were in fact performing; driving a truck, or carrying equipment, or being a part of an ambush team, or being in the front line combat situation. All of these things occurred in the second Gulf War," Whiddon said.

Whiddon said women have been performing such skills since the mid seventies but decades later there are still doubts about a woman's abilities to perform in combat.

"I think most of the time when someone says that a woman cannot do the frontline skills, the in combat skills they're talking about is their upper body strength. They're not as strong as a man and they don't have the same endurance, so a lot of people conclude that they won't do very well if they're in combat," Whiddon said.

The Lieutenant General said women can certainly do what men do to protect our country but their size will always be a concern.

Whiddon said, "Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else wants to put our women in a position where they will be subject to harm because they couldn't do their job. Not because it was their fault but because the job was bigger than they are."

He said women's physical abilities compared to men will be determined through various tests that are underway now.

"These tests will see if a woman can in fact carry the same load, endure the same types of problems that a soldier would endure, and would be able to do the running, the walking, and carry the big rocks sacks that they have to carry. So, all these things are question marks about a woman's ability to be able to meet the combat requirements," Whiddon said.

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