"GI Jane" is entering a new era, and female soldiers who are Hawaii-born or Hawaii-based say a policy change lifting remaining restrictions on women in combat roles opens many doors and is long overdue.
"Really?" Army Pfc. Catherine Carrozza, 20, said when told Wednesday of the change. "You know, this is like my dream."
The Mililani resident, who is with a mainland Army unit, said she wrote an essay about how women should be allowed in combat when she was at Hawaii Pacific University.
"I've been doing sports and stuff, weightlifting mostly recently, and I've always done really well in my Army physical fitness tests," Carrozza said. "I always wanted something more combat-related."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to announce today the removal of remaining gender-based barriers to military service.
"I think it's fantastic. I think it's about time," said Sgt. Andrea Paige, 23, who works in administration at Schofield Barracks. "It's extremely historic. I think honestly it shows that they are starting to realize that women can be just as good in the military. I think it will give the chance to prove that women aren't weak, as most men think they are."
Paige said she would not seek a direct-combat role.
"I have a family," the married mother of one said.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat and military police captain in the Hawaii National Guard, said it's a historic moment not only for women now in the armed forces, "but for all of the women who have selflessly put their lives on the line in theaters of war throughout our nation's history."
t-3"I have had the honor of serving with incredibly talented female soldiers who, if given the opportunity, would serve as great assets in our ground combat units," Gabbard, a twice-deployed combat veteran, said in a news release.
Gabbard said she will "support full and equal access for our highly capable female service members to serve our country in all roles."
Spc. Tania Titus, 23, who works in logistics at Wheeler Army Airfield, said, "I think (the new policy) is awesome, but my husband is infantry and he doesn't agree with it. He thinks women can't do the same things as men."
"I think we can," she added.
A few male soldiers and sailors getting lunch in Wahiawa on Wednesday declined to be interviewed on the policy change.
Carrozza, who is in Hawaii visiting her family, said she does not think the Army should lower its standards for women seeking combat positions.
"I think those (women) that can do it should be given the same opportunity to meet the same standards," she said.
The bodybuilder said "you see girls in (the gym) who can compete with men," adding, "I know girls who can carry 95-pound rucksacks."
Carrozza, 5 feet 1 and 122 pounds, said she would like to try for some sort of combat-related Special Forces combat job.
"I'm personally confident that I could train to go through combat-related training," she said.
She believes a lot of women won't seek direct-combat jobs.
"But I think a lot of (women) will think, 'I have this opportunity now,' and will push themselves to strive to do it," Carrozza said.
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