Pfc. Tasha Conger and Pfc. Tanya Redinbaugh hope their service will seem typical someday. For now, they’re part of a tiny minority of female soldiers living at front-line combat positions.
That could change if a national commission gets its way. The commission told Congress last month that if a woman can show she’s qualified, she ought to be allowed to take any military job.
The two women believe the change will come in time. “I don’t know that there will be any hurry,” Redinbaugh said. “It definitely needs to be done right.” Conger and Redinbaugh are the only two women living among scores of male soldiers at this Iowa National Guard outpost.
At least a dozen times a month, the women don Kevlar helmets and bulky body armor, pick up a pistol or rifle and join patrols of areas known to contain Taliban insurgents.
If their squads are attacked, they’re expected to shoot back. Conger, 21, of Seymour, Iowa, is a medic. If a comrade is wounded, she is supposed to run through fire to rescue him. Redinbaugh, 25, of Neola, Iowa, is a truck driver. She routinely drives hulking armored trucks down rutted roads in which the Taliban like to bury bombs.
But U.S. policy says women may not hold combat jobs, so by definition, these are not combat jobs.