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Sgt. Jessica Hoelting Reed knows it will be hard to shake the notion that being a soldier is a man's job.
"Most people still see this as a man's Army, and they're just trying to include women in it,'' she said. "But I think we've opened up some eyes. More people are starting to realize females can contribute just as much as males.''
Reed doesn't have anything else to prove to her Army superiors in Iraq.
The 22-year-old from Lawrence recently was named Soldier of the Year by the Army Times newspaper.
She didn't do anything particularly heroic to win the award. She's just done her job and done it well, her commander said.
Reed serves as a communications specialist for the Nebraska Guard's 313th Medical Company at Camp Speicher, Iraq.
After deploying earlier this year, she quickly got up to speed on new global positioning equipment installed in her unit's ambulances. She became such an expert, she soon was training other medical companies.
As one of the fastest distance runners in her unit -- male or female -- she is an example of the strides female soldiers have made athletically. In fact, while women are held to lower testing standards, her commander says it's not insignificant that the top five scorers in her unit on the Army's physical test are women.
And Reed has never shied from danger. A trained combat lifesaver, she volunteers for convoy duty in Iraq whenever she can.
"I enjoy them,'' she said. "And if something happens, I think I can be an asset.''
Her mother, Pam Shambaugh, doesn't think there's any job in the Army that her daughter wouldn't volunteer for if given the chance.
"I think she would be, like, 'I'm just as good as any man. Let me prove it.'"
-- Henry J. Cordes
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