Retired Lt. Gen. Richard G. Trefry, for whom the Army’s Lifetime of Service Award is named, tells Newsmax that he believes Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is making a “mistake” in lifting the Pentagon’s long-standing ban on women serving in combat.
“I’ve served in combat. I’m a male and I just have often thought that I would not want my wife, my sister, my mother to experience some of the things that I experienced and what I saw,” explained Trefry in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. “It’s just that simple.”
Trefry spent 33 years on active duty service in the Army and saw combat in Vietnam and Laos before going on to serve as Inspector General of the Army for his last six years under three chiefs of staff and secretaries of the Army.
Since retiring from active duty in 1983, Trefry served in the White House as the military assistant to the president and headed up the Army’s Force Management School at Fort Belvoir, Va.
While critics have long maintained that women would pose an emotional distraction to their male counterparts on the battlefield, and that their presence might lead to inappropriate relationships, Trefry insists that those issues are not paramount.
“I just think that it is very difficult. If they’re in combat it is very difficult, particularly ground combat — women flying airplanes and this kind of thing is a hell of a lot different than serving in the infantry or serving in the field artillery,” observed Trefry, who was a field artilleryman.
“I’ll tell you what, somebody has to unload the ammunition and somebody has to feed it when you’re firing guns,” he explained. “I don’t know too many women who could pick up these rounds and throw them up on the deck of a Howitzer and slam it into the breach and fire it.”
In 2009, the secretary of the Army established the Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry Lifetime of Service Award, honoring Trefry’s extraordinary achievement and service to the Army, the Department of Defense, the federal government, and nation.
Trefry acknowledges that there’s no question women have been exposed to danger in the service of their country.
“They’re in positions of danger. There’s no question about that but they’re not part of an infantry squad that’s seeking to clear out a building, to clear out a street, and to clear out a geographical part of the land,” he explained. “It’s a dirty business.”
Over the years, Trefry said that he has encountered very few women who have expressed an interest to serve in combat posts, though such military jobs are often a prerequisite for senior level positions.
“I can’t think of any of them who wanted to be assigned to combat forces and I’ve had women tell me point blank that they would not join if they had to take their chances in this business,” he said. “Now at the same time there’s a few.”
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