Former congressman and retired three-star Admiral Joseph “Joe” Sestak, Jr. said it is time for women to serve in U.S. military combat roles.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected Thursday to drop the ban on combat roles for women. Sestak, a Democrat who represented Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district from 2007 to 2011, released a statement supporting that decision.
Said Sestak: “Shortly after arriving in the Indian Ocean during the war in Afghanistan, I launched attack planes from the aircraft carrier of my battle group, one of which had a young female pilot.
“Over Afghanistan that night, she disregarded a standing order not to dive low without permission. U.S. Special Forces had been ambushed by the Taliban; four were dead and she felt there was no time to request permission to save the rest.
“She immediately dove and strafed, and in her covering fire, the remaining men were able to extract their dead and themselves,” he said.
Sestak said that when he joined the military in the Vietnam era, “there were no women on aircraft carriers, never mind flying attack aircraft off them.”
But his experience in Afghanistan convinced him that they could play a vital role in combat.
“I believe all Americans should be given the opportunity to be all they can be in order to contribute to this nation,” he said. “That includes allowing women the full capacities to defend America if they choose.”
Sestak’s service included command of the USS George Washington carrier strike group. He also served as chief of the Navy’s secret counter-terror unit after 9/11.
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