Retired Female Air Force Pilot Praises Decision on Combat

North Texas veteran says women already serve in combat roles

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    A retired U.S. Air Force pilot is praising the military's decision to lift the ban on women in combat. (Published Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013)

    A retired U.S. Air Force pilot from Mineral Wells is praising the military's decision to lift the ban on women in combat.

    "What an exciting day for women in the military," retired Col. Kimberly Olson said. "I couldn't be more proud of our nation."

    Olson helped pave the way for women in the military, flying more than 4,000 hours in places such as Iraq and Bosnia.

    "Women have been involved in this arena for a long time," she said. "And combat knows no gender."

    Women make up about 15 percent of active military members but until now, they've officially been barred from direct combat roles.

    In practice, Olson said, women have already been there and done that.

    "Women have been in combat, I would argue, for the last decade since we've been on two fronts -- in Iraq and Afghanistan," Olson said. "The area of operation is where combat occurs."

    She said old stereotypes have changed.

    "The men of this generation of military members have had women next to the men on the soccer fields, they've sat next to them in engineering classes, they have strong mothers as role models, they've been beaten up by their sisters, so women in nontraditional roles is not an anomaly anymore," she said.

    Olson now runs a nonprofit group, Grace Under Fire, that helps female veterans.

    She said women coming home from wars need the same support as men -- especially with more in future combat roles.

    It was just a matter of time before the Pentagon reversed its ban on women in combat, she said, adding that the timing of Wednesday's announcement was still a surprise.

    "That's what I'm most proud of," she said. "My generation of women who served made women going into combat a nonevent."

    More: Grace Under Fire