Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Suing to Allow Women in Combat


Captain Zoe Bedell, US Marine Corps Reserves; First Lieutenant Colleen Farrell, US Marine Corps; Staff Sergeant Jennifer Hunt, US Army Reserves; and Major Mary Hegar, Air National Guard – plaintiffs in groundbreaking suit challenging combat exclusion policy — in San Francisco, CA. (Photo courtesy: SWAN)

Four women have filed a legal challenge against Defense Secretary Leon Panetta saying the policy that excludes women from combat puts them at a professional disadvantage and is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a California federal court and includes the advocacy group Service Women’s Action Network as a plaintiff along with:

  • Major Mary Jennings Hegar, a combat helicopter pilot in the California Air National Guard;
  • Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, a civil affairs soldier in the Army reserves;
  • Capt. Alexandra Zoe Bedell, a logistics officer in the Marine Corps reserves;
  • 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell, an active-duty Marine air support control officer.

The Executive Director of SWAN, Anu Bhagwati, wrote in a press statement:

Opening all assignments to qualified women and breaking the “brass ceiling” will help transform this culture and bring about the change that our military desperately needs in order to be a truly professional force in the 21st century.

Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain, told the Stars and Stripes the combat exclusion policy does not reflect modern warfare or military values.

“Rather than enforcing a merit-based system, today’s military bars all women, regardless of their qualifications, from access to prestigious and career-enhancing assignments, positions and schools, and thus is directly responsible for making service women second-class citizens.”

The Pentagon spokesman had no comment on the lawsuit, but defended Panetta’s record on women saying he opened up more than 14,000 positions that had been closed to women and lifted a rule not allowing women to live with combat units.

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  1. [...] Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Suing to Allow Women in Combat [...]

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