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Women in uniform tell Ohio panel they see progress in military

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sometimes, women in the military feel as if they have to work harder and prove themselves more. Sometimes, there’s just no getting around that, Coast Guard Petty Officer Denise Davidson said Tuesday.

It’s been a year since the U.S. military opened limited combat roles to women, and Davidson was one of five of Ohio’s female modern-wartime veterans on a Women’s History Month panel at the Statehouse discussing their roles in what remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated armed forces.

All of them agreed on this: The person best equipped for any job should get it, regardless of gender.

Today, 14 percent of the U.S. military’s active-duty members are women. And the Pentagon has said that by 2016, the branches of the service will be fully integrated by gender and all combat jobs, including infantry positions, will be available to women.

At the event held by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Lowry of Thornville said standards shouldn’t be lowered for women who want to enter combat. She’s a career Ohio Army National Guard member, serving her 21st year. She deployed to Kuwait in 2006 and served at Camp Buehring.

When it comes to today’s generation of women entering the service, she had clear advice: “Be assertive. Don’t give anyone a doubt or a reason as to why you as a woman should not be there.”

Beyond the potential combat roles, though, the women on the panel all said they recognized that they are a part of history — that other young women who enlist will look at their careers to see what’s possible.

“The respect that women have earned at the absolute history-making moments, and the things that women in the military have strived for, is extraordinary,” said Master Sgt. Sheila L. Pryor of Mansfield. She is the information resource manager of the 179th Airlift Operations Flight, Ohio Air National Guard, in Mansfield. She deployed to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2010.

She said that younger women entering the military today must be reminded to never settle, remembering that anything is possible. That’s even more true for them than it has been for her in her career, Pryor said.

The panel was a chance to spread an important message that women in the military make a difference, she said.

“We are trendsetters,” Pryor said. “We are changing the world. I’m truly indebted to the opportunity the military has given me.”
 

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