Female ROTC Cadets at ECU and leaders of the program are reacting to the end of the ban of women in combat.
Senior Cara Rice and Junior Ellen Johnson, who both plan to join the Army, say that becoming a Soldier as a new chapter of the military begins is worthwhile.
Johnson says, "I think it's great that a standard that has been set due to stigma in society of maybe women not being as strong as men, stuff like that, the fact that it's dropped just goes to show how great our organization is and our country is overall."
Rice says, "I feel like not every female is going to opt to go into that training but the ones that are physically fit to, have the opportunity to now"
Critics charge that the conditions men and women would be exposed to together in the war zone does not lend itself to unit cohesiveness. Johnson says she doesn't see it. That there is a common goal and that's enough.
Johnson says, "It goes with the job. Obviously we're not doing everything dainty or anything out there, but we expect that, we know that things aren't going to be up to what society says but that's part of the job, you've got to do what you've got to do
Lt. Colonel Dan Heape is in charge of the ROTC program and has two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Both he and staff member Major Coleen Burgemaster, who have a combined 30 years of experience, say the prowess of women in these roles has been proven. Lt. Col. Dan Heape says, "I've had female soldiers serving with me and beside me under multiple combat operations. I had female gunners, I've had female platoon sergeants that are operating outside of the forward operating bases in harms way - closing with the enemy through firefights." Major. Colleen Burgemaster says,"Now it gives them a chance to possibly be a brigade commander and work their way up into more command positions given them more of a chance at higher ranks in those areas."
Johnson says, "As far as being able to do the physical part of it - definitely - it has to remain the same. You're equal, you're in an equal fight so you really can't go ahead and change those standards."
The military has until 2016 to decide if some of those frontline combat jobs -- such as the Navy Seals and Army Delta Force -- should remain closed to women.