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Lioness Sgt. Ranie Ruthig and Jessica Samuels in Ramadi.

Lioness Sgt. Ranie Ruthig and Jessica Samuels in Ramadi. Source: Lloyd Francis Jr. hide caption

toggle caption Source: Lloyd Francis Jr.

Today we round out documentary-excitement-week with Lioness. It's the story of women in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan — women who are barred from ground combat units, but serve in other units. By now we know that the frontlines are ill-defined on these fronts, so women end up in mortar attacks and firefights just like the men they serve alongside. As it turns out, there's a bit more to it. There's a group of women who actually go out on raids with the men. Known as Lionesses, they're invaluable to the combat units — they search women, handle children, and guard the typically un-armed translators, among other things. And now, they're the first female combat veterans. Lioness is their story, and two of the women and one of the filmmakers join us today.



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I just returned from Kuwait/Iraq after being recalled from civilian life to serve again (I had served originally from 1999 to 2003). There were numerous women in the same roles that we were in as convoy escorts (FYI I am male). My question/comment is whether any of the Lionesses in the unit have left the military and how they are finding their return to civilian life - that is how they find their Iraq experience affects their attempts to reintegrate with civilian society.

Sent by Anonymous | 2:33 PM | 6-19-2008

I am an opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a proud feminist. I have raised three children in a loving intact home and had a very active career in a "male " field. Women serving in combat and being so cavilier about leaving children really emphasises my concern that putting women in the same murderous roles that men have held increases the coarsening and disintegration of the fabric of our culture. No one should be in Iraq, man or woman, killing for a living.

Sent by martricia mclaughlin | 2:39 PM | 6-19-2008

"As long as you're competent..."--that has always been one of the affirmative action issues, for as it has developed, the affirmative action persons often were not competent when turned out into the positions. It was probably less so in the miilitary, as the military does train people up to the ability to do the job or gets rid of them.

"The woman with the 9-year daughter who got a divorce in Iraq..." Her dismissing comment that "men can raise children as well as men" is typical of the fallacious conceit of the feminist movement, often spouted by the seminal likes of Betty Friedan, et al. In fact, that statement is false, but it keeps the guilt of maternal irresponsibility down; it is, however, annoying to hear it said so self-rightously defensively. Yes, a man can raise a child as well as a woman as a theoretical matter, but if a woman doesn't want to be there for her child, then why'd she have the child in the first place just thereafter to abandon her responsibilities, even if it is to the child's father. Biology IS destiny in this matter: men don't have uteruses. The child suffers because of the self-centered, selfish wish of the woman to "have a career like a man" (I believe that's a form of penis envy), denying that by giving birth she had already chosen her paramount and most important career. When she CHOOSES then to go into the military or to continue in the military, she is abandoning her chief responsibility in life: to raise that child in the best possible manner to adulthood, especially when exposed to a combat role. Co-incidentally, this soldier apparently also failed at her uxorious responsibilities as well, as she and her husband divorced, doubling up the trauma to her daughter. If her daughter has any adjustment problems later in life, it is clear on whom the blame will first be laid, and probably rightly so. Quite frankly, this soldier's duty to her country at this time in her life is to raise her daughter, not to be out chasing Arabs in the sands of the Middle East. After her child is raised, she can have whatever career is available. Why do you think there is such a crisis in America in education and with drugs and with obesity and all the other issues affecting the children of America? It is because WOMEN for 50 years now have been abandoning their responsibilities to society. I think the technical term for that is "losers," not "progress." Sorry to sound harsh to this soldier, who I'm sure is a good soldier, but we all know about to what her "good intentions" can pave.

Sent by User | 3:11 PM | 6-19-2008

Regarding where you live segment. I have experienced improvement in my economic condition and personal pleasure of living by moving from Florida, Fort Myers metro area, to Colorado, Denver metro area. The geography was definitely a nice change of pace, but most of the improvement in this case is due to the legal conditions surrounding my work as a dental hygienist. Being able to work in a state with fewer legal restrictions has given me the ability to improve the quality of my work. This is better for my clients as well as the economic benefit of being able to charge the value of my work.

Sent by Howard Notgarnie | 3:29 PM | 6-19-2008

Let's remember where we were 9-10 years ago when that child was conceived- Al Qaeda and the war in Chechnya was only known about by academics, intelligence officers and socio-political junkies; Clinton was being impeached and the USA was bombing Kosovo (in the largest single day of bombing since WWII which was then eclipsed by the shooting at Columbine); Nelson Mandela left being President of S. Africa; and there was the Battle in Seattle. More people cared about the death of JFK Jr than Al Qaeda at that time. September 11th was just a date and no different than September 10th or September 12th. When I predicted a massive terrorist attack on transit systems in my political science classes in 1997, I was scoffed at, so how would this woman know that she would be in active combat in Iraq in the 2000's? In this life, you have to play with the cards your dealt, not the one's that others wished you had. Haven't you ever had a job where you had to do something you were less than thrilled about but due to outside circumstances you weren't able to quit and find another position? Maybe there were life lessons she had to teach both her daughter and/or herself- about doing what you believe in, or doing what you don't believe in but have been called upon to do, or staying strong through adversity, or being a woman and being capable of fulfilling any role in a team or as a leader? I strongly disagree with the war in Iraq, but as someone who works for my own country's government, I understand the integrity, and the strong sense of honour,duty and desire to serve one's nation when called upon. Women have not "abandoned their responsibilities to society", we have had to learn how to juggle both our roles in our families and outside of them. If all us woman stayed home in the kitchen for the next week, you would see the real collapse of the US economy!

As for you comment about uteruses being destiny, I would hate to think that my entire worth as a human being from birth to death is determined by a sack with a hole in it. I appreciate the beauty of being a mother and I love my son with my entire being, as I'm sure that soldier loves her daughter. Sometimes "doing the needful" (as the Indians put it) is what is required, in fact demanded, to show that love. Hugs don't put food on the table. As a child born to parents who never married, I can truly say that divorce doesn't automatically equal damaged children. Some of the most damaged people I know have parents who are still together or who remained married until they were 17 years plus. I'm sure the soldier was deeply divided about leaving her daughter, but confident in the abilities of her ex-husband to be a consistent presence in her daughter's life. As for her self-righteous defensiveness, haven't you ever made a decision you knew others would disagree with? Sometimes, the position you feel the weakest about is the position you have to most adamantly defend. She was on international radio, what else was she supposed to say? At least she had the courage to stand up and be counted, whereas you hid under "User".
Be strong, ladies, and follow your dreams!

Sent by Juli | 11:23 PM | 6-19-2008

I am too late but I need to say this:
I am really concerned about the cavalier tone of what sounds like a military love fest in this program.
Though most seem to feel differently, I do not think we can separate the warrior from a really stupid and costly war.
By ignoring the reasons for war and concentrating only on the humanity of those doing this dirty work, we are not really supporting the sold-dier, we are falling for the set up that keeps this war draining us of the society these women will eventually need to return to.

Sent by Bob | 12:58 AM | 6-20-2008

To Martricia: A pacifist myself, I join you in opposition to the current war. However, you must be aware of the necessity for national defense. This being given, don't you feel that having a female influence within the military might tone down the "murderous"ness you accuse it of?

Ie., if you want to change something, sometimes joining in and trying to fix it is better than standing on the sidelines washing your hands. I have a lot of respect for these "lionesses" - there are far fewer women in combat squads than there are in corporate boardrooms, and the glass ceiling for them is a lot tougher to break through.


Sent by Kasreyn | 10:26 AM | 6-20-2008

I was a US Marine Officer who served in Iraq. When I first joined the USMC in the early nineties, I saw military experience a culture change as a result of Tailhook, Don't Ask-Don't Tell, sexual harrasment, Consideration of Others(COO)and more females entering the military. Basically, forcing social engineering and political correctness down our throats regardless of whether it was workable and sustainable or not.

These females deserve credit for their service, but let me state that what they did is equivalent to what most male soldiers had to do in theater, so therefore shouldn't receive such special attention. The feminist media in the U.S want to see strong, tough men's 'ass kickin' women, but if they ever go to a war zone themselves they will see that killing is not something to be glorified, and that cold blooded killers make bad role models.

Also, if these 'lionesses'(a very egotistical self serving name) set a precendent for more american women to fight in our nations wars, by all means start drafting as many girls as possible so THEY can do the dirty work of warfighting for a change, and us males can sit at home, drink a beer and watch them all on TV!

Sent by B Simm | 5:37 PM | 6-20-2008

For those with comments disregarding the military service, thier commitment, and belief in our country. Live a day in our shoes. We do our job everyday, so that you can sit on the computer and downgrade our sacrifice. That is the right given the first ammendment, that is around because...........the soldiers that defend YOUR right to freedom. Men and women in our Armed Forces grant you that freedom. If you are so great, volunteer to defend our contry and then YOUR beliefs might matter to me and my nine year old, straight A, outgoing, well-adjusted daughter.

Sent by Lioness | 12:51 AM | 6-22-2008

Every time the subject matter falls on women, the discussion becomes heated and culturalized. What a woman's "role" should be is always thrown into the mix.
For everyone's information, women are not public property. Not their reproductive organs nor their life choices.

Sent by nikki palesh | 10:50 AM | 6-26-2008

Trying to find information on how to volunteer for the Lioness program and / or an Army equivalent. Anybody know where to get more info besides the media articles?

Sent by Jo | 11:49 PM | 7-19-2008

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