Round Rock woman sues Secretary of Defense for women to serve in combat


by Melissa Mahadeo / KVUE News with photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Posted on November 29, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 29 at 11:21 PM

AUSTIN -- Maj. Mary Hegar isn't used to the spotlight but she is used to combat. A trained search and rescue pilot, she's served in the military for more than a decade.

“Flying close to the ground, supporting the troops. I am a little bit of an adrenaline junkie,” Hegar said.

On her third tour in Afghanistan, Hegar's chopper was shot down in Kandahar.

“In July 2009, I was in a med-evac mission picking up three injured American soldiers,” Hegar said. “It took a second to realize what had happened. It kind of sounded like the crack of a bat hitting a home run and I looked down and realized I had been shot.”

But she continued the mission and made sure her crew was safe.

“I think we took about 40 to 50 rounds,” Hegar said. “My story is certainly not uncommon, it sounds exceptional but it is not uncommon.”

She is one of four women challenging a policy that prevents women from fighting on the front lines. The group is suing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in order to change the policy.

Hegar said she is proof women are just as capable as men.

“I was very calm and I was able to save the aircraft from crashing like a copilot, like a male copilot, would have,” she said. “I think I owe it to the women who are serving now and the ones who came before me.”

Press Secretary George Little said Panetta has opened up some combat positions to women and is considering more.

“On his watch some 14,500, give or take a few, positions have been made available,” Little said. “The recent openings I just referred to are merely the beginning and not the end of the process and we expect that process to continue."

Women make up 14 percent of the nation's 1.4 million active military personnel. Hegar said women are excluded from about 238,000 positions across the armed forces.

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