By MARTHA RADDATZ and ELIZABETH GORMAN : Oct. 25, 2009
The image of young women in a hot, dusty combat zone toting automatic weapons is still startling to some. But right now there are 10,000 women serving in Iraq, more than 4,000 in Aghanistan. They have been fighting and dying next to their male comrades since the wars began. “I can’t help but think most Americans think women aren’t in combat,” says Specialist Ashley Pullen who was awarded a Bronze Star for valor in 2005 for her heroic action in Iraq where she served with a military police unit. “We’re here and we’re right up with the guys.” Technically they’re restricted from certain combat roles. The Department of Defense prohibits women from serving in assignments “whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.” Nevertheless, women serving in support positions on and off the frontlines, where war is waged on street corners and in markets, are often at equal risk. There have been 103 women who have been killed in Iraq and 15 others in Afghanistan.