Jessica Lynch, the former Army soldier and POW freed in a daring rescue in Iraq a decade ago, says the Pentagon's decision to allow women to fight in direct combat is a good one.
"For years women have been fighting for our freedom," Lynch told ABC News
. "Whether they are designed for a front line mission, they're being put in those kinds of roles and paths anyway."
A supply clerk, Lynch was 19 when she was captured in Iraq after her Army unit took a wrong turn and came under attack in 2003 near Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates River northwest of Basra.
She was initially listed as missing in action. Eleven other soldiers in the company were killed in the ambush. She was rescued from an enemy-held hospital complex nine days later in a nighttime raid that also successfully retrieved the bodies of other American soldiers.
Initial accounts said Lynch had stab and bullet wounds, and that she had been raped and later abused during interrogation. She later said all her injuries related to her vehicle flipping over during the initial attack.
Lynch, who now lives in West Virginia, said what's most important is that both male and female soldiers have the proper training and equipment.
In one of its biggest policy changes in history, the Defense Department announced Thursday that the ban on women serving in combat would be lifted. The order will open as many as 200,000 jobs for women, mostly in the Army and Marines, CBS News said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta argued that the move will strengthen the U.S. military’s ability to win wars.
Panetta's order will also make women eligible to serve in infantry on combat patrol and even in elite special operations units like the Navy SEALS.
Combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost more than 130 women their lives and left more than 800 wounded, according to CBS News.
Women will have to meet strength standards that could keep them out of units where physical demands are especially grueling. If the military wants to keep a unit like the Navy SEALS or Army Green Berets off-limits to women, they will have to justify it to the Secretary of Defense, said CBS News.
The U.S. military has until May to determine how they will implement the plan, and they have until the end of 2015 to put the plan into action.
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