There are currently four female veterans serving in Congress. After Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the military would be opening all MOS positions to women, their reactions were blunt and succinct.
“I didn’t lose my legs in a bar fight,” said Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who flew combat missions during the Iraq War. She lost both of her legs and sustained significant damage to her arm when her helicopter was shot down by insurgents in 2004. Duckworth served in the Army National Guard for 23 years. “Of course women can serve in combat.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who serves alongside Duckworth on the House Armed Services Committee. This Air Force veteran is credited as one of the first women in American history to fly an aircraft into a hostile zone, which she did in Iraq in 1995. McSally has logged over 300 combat flying hours.
“It’s about damn time,” McSally said in a statement. “We are a country that looks at people as individuals, not groups. We select the best man for the job, even if it’s a woman.”
Between 2004 and 2009, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, also served two tours in Iraq as a medical operations specialist. She is currently a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
Gabbard expressed gratitude that Pentagon “is finally catching up to the reality of the ways women have been contributing and serving out country.”
Sen. Joni Ernst is the only female veteran to serve in the Senate. Though she now serves her home state of Iowa in Congress, she first served in the Iowa Army National Guard for 23 years. She retired as a lieutenant colonel a few days ago.
“I support providing women the opportunity to serve in any capacity, as long as standards are not lowered and it enhances our combat effectiveness,” she said in a statement.