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Women in Combat

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Lt. Col. Davina French is no stranger to deployment.

"Based on my 25 years, I personally have never been stopped from doing anything that I want to do," says French.

But she has seen a change in the way women in uniform have been treated, most markedly, from what happened during her experience in Desert Storm in the early 90s, to her experience in Iraq a decade ago.

"When the first SCUDS went off and the sirens went off, the women went to their bunkers, and the men went to their bunkers.  What happened is the men snuck over to the female bunkers, putting their lives in harm to see if the women were ok.  We've gone from that 20 some years ago to women and men driving in the same truck, going down the same roads, getting hit by the same IEDs," says French.

The Pentagon's decision to fully integrate women into front-line roles won't have much effect for French, or for others in the North Dakota National Guard. That's because every unit in the Guard had already been open to women, except for one combat unit that will now be opened.

But it will have a bigger impact for other branches of service, and for women who chose to serve in them.

"There are no lines anymore.  It just makes sense on a military basis, if you erase all the lines and everybody's equal, that's the way it should be. And that's the way we've approached in North Dakota," says French.

While the details for how women will be allowed into other jobs still haven't been worked out, and we could be years away from seeing women in every role, French says, looking at the big picture, it's an exciting time for women.

"It drops the barriers down so that women can be treated as equal as the men are in any job classification. That also means, I think, that it's not male or female, it's whoever is best qualified for the job."

So going forward, out of 100 jobs, women will be able to apply for every one, and their gender will no longer be a reason to keep them out.

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