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Local veterans sound off on combat roles opening to women

By Kerry Longobucco.
Local veterans are reacting to the United States defense secretary's recent order to open all combat jobs to women.

In January, the ban will be lifted that prohibits women from entering front line combat roles each branch of the military. Starting in 2016, women will be eligible to serve in the elite ranks of the Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, and all other infantry units.

The Marine corps had requested to keep women from entering certain front-line combat jobs.

For those who don't support the new order, the concerns go beyond whether or not women are physically able to perform in combat roles.

Some worry about how men and women will interact in a combat environment. People have argued that these workplace romances could become a divisive and deadly distraction, or lead to favoritism. Others question whether co-habitation could lead to cases of sexual harassment or rape within infantry units.

Ralph Tapia, a Vietnam veteran and commander of VFW Post 1371, says he supports and applauds women who enter combat roles. Tapia says there is no doubt there are women who are capable of these demanding jobs.

But he does hope certain things remain separate.

"I don't think it's a very good idea that they cohabitate in the same barracks," Tapia said. "Women are women, and men are men. In order to keep harmony between them, there should be barracks for the women, and barracks for the men."

It remains to be seen exactly how these integrations will take place. Each branch of the military has been ordered to submit their plans by January 1 to start integrating women into combat roles.