Retired military pilot pleased women getting right to fight

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by JOBIN PANICKER / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 24 at 10:03 AM

FORT WORTH — On Thursday, the Pentagon will lift a 1994 ban on women taking front-line combat roles.

Women make up 14 percent of the nearly 1.5 million active military personnel.

No one is happier about the decision than Kimberly Olson, who is a retired colonel living on the outskirts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"My generation of women took the doors off the hinges so these women could have a chance at serving their country in anything they were qualified for," Olson said.

She has fond memories of the Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth. It's one place where her military career began in the 1980s. Olson remembers taking her instructor training there, but her call to serve started after witnessing POWs get off the planes after Vietnam.

"It's sort of this defining moment in a 14-year-old's life," Olson said. "I want to be a part of something that makes me stand tall and proud of my service."

The retired colonel spent 25 years in the Air Force. But more importantly, she says she's the first generation of female pilots in the U.S.

But there is also opposition to the Pentagon pronouncement. An audio sample from ThinkProgress.org links Arkansas Representative Tom Cotton to this statement:

"To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units. And that's been proven in study after study — it's nature."

In the same breath, Cotton also praises a lot of the work done by women in the military.

Kimberly Olson now works with Grace After Fire, a non-profit group that supports women veterans. While still very early to tell the impact this policy shift will have on recruiting, Olson has a message for young women.

"There is no more noble a mission that to don one of the uniforms of our services and to go in harm's way for America. She will be set for the rest of her life, because it truly makes her a hero," Olson said.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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