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Spc. Jenny Beck finds the old Army recruiting slogan "Be all you can be'' a bit ironic.
It's never been true for women, she said. Not only are they prohibited from serving in front-line infantry units, they aren't even given the chance to prove they're up to the job.
"Not letting women make their own choice about their life and their job is a disgrace and a slap in the face,'' said Beck, a Nebraska Guard soldier from Clarks. "If I did want to join the infantry, the military should not make my decision for me.''
Fellow truck drivers in the 1075th Transportation Company in Iraq have learned not to argue with Beck about women in the military, a subject on which she has some pretty strong opinions.
But when it comes to the ability of female soldiers, Beck's actions speak as loud as her words.
In March, a 1075th convoy was attacked by a large force of insurgents and became dangerously bogged down.
Her commanders say Beck, driving a truck in the middle of the convoy, became the de facto convoy commander. She pulled a wounded soldier out of his stricken truck, helped rally the other trucks and got them moving out of "the kill zone.''
A week ago, she was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor.
Having spent long hours in camp and on the road debating her mostly male colleagues, Beck said she knows all the arguments against women in combat: Women are too emotional. They aren't strong enough. They can't be trusted to "have your back.''
"I argue them all,'' she said.
There are men she wouldn't trust to have her back.
And while men are physically stronger, there's no doubt there are women who could meet the physical standards required of infantry soldiers. They should have that chance, she said.
"Women have had to prove themselves all through history,'' she said. "It will never end.''
-- Henry J. Cordes
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