'Lioness': Female Soldiers' First Forays into Combat There are regulations that are supposed to keep female soldiers out of ground combat, but the war in Iraq doesn't always follow the rules. A new movie on America's first generation of female combat veterans, Lioness, details their struggle.
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'Lioness': Female Soldiers' First Forays into Combat

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In the Iraq War, everyone risks the ambush or an IED. Once you're outside the wire, a female soldier says in a new documentary film, the enemy doesn't care what gender you are, but sometimes American commanders want women soldiers very close to combat troops.

Here Sergeant Ranie Ruthig describes an operation in Anbar province in 2003 when she was part of a unit of female soldiers, called "Team Lioness."

Sergeant RANIE RUTHIG (U.S. Army Sergeant, Team Lioness): They wouldn't let us in the house so we ended up having to bust down the doors.

(Soundbite of an explosion)

Sergeant RUTHIG: We rolled into the house, and we're at the last of what they call the stack. You know, men went in, secured the area and we came in behind them. We usually guarded the interpreter because the interpreters over there weren't armed.

Sergeant RUTHIG: The women and children are all in one room. The men are all in the other. The women and children, they were just panic-stricken, because, you know, we were supposed to search them. And finally, Morgan and I took off our helmets, and once they saw we were females they started trying to talk to us.

CONAN: Because there's no front, because soldiers and Marines so often interact with civilian women and children, because insurgencies don't follow the traditions of warfare, female soldiers can find themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the law that prohibits them from units that engage in direct ground combat--the infantry, artillary, and special ops--gets blurred in places like Ramadi.

A new documentary film called "Lioness" describes what women soldiers actually do in Iraq and the effect it has on them. In a moment, we'll talk with two soldiers from Team Lioness and with one of the filmmakers. Later in the program, we want to hear your stories about the flood of '08. Calls later but you can send us email now. The address is talk@npr.org.

But first, Lioness. We'd like to hear from women who've served in the armed forces today especially those who have done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tell us your story.Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. And we begin with Anastasia Breslow. She's a captain in the U.S. Army and served in the Lioness Combat Support Unit. She's with us here in studio 3A. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Captain ANASTASIA BRESLOW (Captain, U.S. Army, Lioness Combat Support Unit): Neal, thank you.

CONAN: So what happens when the law that states that no women are allowed in direct combat comes into contact with the reality of the war in Iraq?

Captain BRESLOW: I think we're a perfect example of what happens when you have a policy that doesn't work well with the ground war. We had a commander, Colonel Kabri(ph), one-five Field Artillery who was running into a problem where, because of the cultural differences, women could not be searched by men, and they were hiding documents and it was a very uncomfortable situation for them to deal with.

And he talked to his good friend, Colonel Brinkley, who was our commander of the engineers, who had approximately two-dozen females in the unit. And they started brainstorming and decided, well, let me put out teams of women to go with you and they will perform the searches.

The missions we went out on were not meant to become those missions, they were knock-and-greets and house searches. But as we said earlier, the war finds you, and you know, what started as a knock-and-greet could turn into a firefight.

CONAN: And I want to introduce a second guest now, and that's Sergeant Ranie Ruthig. wWe heard you just a moment ago on that tape. Thanks very much for being with us. She's also here with us in studio 3A.

Sergeant RUTHIG: Thank you for having us.

CONAN: And it's interesting, just after that clip we played, you say in the film, I felt like the Gestapo.

Sergeant RUTHIG: The first time we ever went out to go out with the men, it was with our own army infantry. I think it was the one-fivethat we went with, and they didn't realize that we were females. It was another group of men, and I could sympathize with them. It was hard to see the terror in their eyes when they thought we're busting into their house.

CONAN: You were busting into their house.

Sergeant RUTHIG: Yes, sir.

CONAN: And if it was me, I would have felt the same way, you said.

Sergeant RUTHIG: It was hard to see, and they calmed down a lot once they do realize that you are a female.

CONAN: And that is precisely the advantage that you present in that - Team Lioness would present in that circumstance.

Sergeant RUTHIG: I mean, our commanders realize that they were losing a lot of intel and a lot of caches and such by not searching the females, not being able to.

CONAN: Caches being their deposits of weapons that are hidden.

Sergeant RUTHIG: Weapons or even paper work.

CONAN: And Captain Breslow, let me ask you. In the film, the point is made that, you know, the rules - the law passed by Congress is being bent. Commanders are forced to go into grey areas all the time, just by the nature of the conflict in Iraq.

Captain BRESLOW: Yes, exactly. You have to adjust to the situation. And I think in most cases that wouldn't have been necessary, but because of the cultural differences they had to adjust. It was the only way to make sure our soldiers were safe and to get the intelligence and also to secure the population and make sure that they were safe.

CONAN: And nevertheless, these operations, well, you know, you're putting your troops into danger.

Captain BRESLOW: Yes.

CONAN: And interestingly, in that clip we played just at the beginning of the show, you said you couldn't believe you got caught in a firefight. Tell us about that. How did that happen?

Captain BRESLOW: We were out on a cordon and search , and most of the Lionesses were actually doing traffic control points at that time in case they ran across females that needed to be searched.

The cordon and search , at the end of it the speakers went off and they had called the local population to a Jihad, and suddenly we were getting shot at. And we're in the middle of a firefight.

CONAN: And that's where the war finds you.

Captain BRESLOW: Exactly.

CONAN: What was that experience like?

Captain BRESLOW: It was terrifying and surreal, and you realize how good your training is. And then you have to remind yourself that it's real bullets and not blanks because you're so comfortable with the noise and with what's happening and you know who you are supposed to follow and what you are supposed to do. And you have to realize that you still have to be more careful, because it's real. It's not training.

CONAN: And you are firing back not at targets. You're firing back at real people.

Captain BRESLOW: Exactly.

CONAN: And that has its effects, too.

Captain BRESLOW: It certainly does. Morgan couldn't be here with us, but she has had to deal with the after effects of that, the PTSD and the stress.

CONAN: And now let me introduce Daria Sommers. She's co-director of the documentary "Lioness," and she's also here with us in studio 3A. Thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. DARIA SOMMERS (Co-director, "Lioness"): Very nice to be here.

CONAN: And I wanted to ask you. The film sets out - it's not a narrated film, which I think is one of its benefits. But, anyway, it's - though, if you need a voice-over specialist. Anyway...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: The film sets out in captions at the beginning to say, we wanted to find out what women soldiers actually do in Iraq.

Ms. SOMMERS: Yes, that was a - I co-directed the film with Meg McLagen. We made it together. And our goal was to really tell a story that really was emblematic of the changing role of women who are serving in this current conflict, in the war in Iraq. And so we started out with that as our question.

And we then found this story, and it really seems to symbolize this disconnect between what's necessary on the ground over in Iraq, and sort of the extent to which the public understands what women are doing.

CONAN: There's a fascinating moment in your film where - I think during a reunion of Team Lioness, they're watching a History Channel documentary on the incident in which, I think - Ranie, that incident that you were involved with, where that takes place, and in fact, their role is not mentioned at all.

Ms. SOMMERS: That's absolutely right. Their role isn't mentioned. And one of the exciting things for Meg and I, as we made this film, was when we really started to understand that we were sort of capturing, sort of, history, that otherwise might not - might've fallen through the cracks. So in that sense it was original history, and we did very careful research and worked with the women. But we really had to piece together the story.

CONAN: We're talking with two of the members of a Team Lioness, Captain Anastasia Breslow and Sergeant Ranie Ruthig, also with filmmaker Daria Sommers. If you'd like to join us, we'd especially be interested to hear from women who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan today. 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. And let's start with Kay, Kay's with us from Bowling Green in Ohio.

KAY (Caller): Hi, Neal. I was just wondering if the women who find themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently quite often you do find yourself in combat, are you getting combat pay like the men do?

CONAN: Why don't we take it as far up the chain of command as we can go, Captain?

Captain BRESLOW: Yes, we're getting the same combat pay that the men do.

CONAN: Same combat pay as the men.

Captain BRESLOW: Yes, it's hazardous duty pay, hazardous fire pay, and all of it tax-free. So we get the same pay.

KAY: That's fabulous.

CONAN: OK, thanks very much.

KAY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go now to Brian, Brian's with us from Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

BRIAN (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Go ahead, Brian.

BRIAN: Hello, Neal, thank you for your show, and ladies, thank you for your service. First of all, I really appreciate it. My question is this, I hear a lot about...

CONAN: Your line dropped there for a second, Brian. See if you can say that again.

BRIAN: Oh, I apologize. We hear a lot about post-traumatic stress syndrome in the men who return from wars. My question, and I've thought about this for a long time, do women suffer from it? And when they suffer from it, how is it different? Is it different?

CONAN: I'm going to take your question, Brian, but I'm also going to hang up on you because the line is so bad. But thanks very much for the call. And Ranie, Morgan, you said, couldn't be here, but she suffered from the effects of what she experienced in Iraq?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Yes. I mean, women suffer just as men. I guess we talked about this earlier today, that a lot of the people in the military are type A, you know, you don't let that kind of show. You know, so it's harder to - for a lot of people to come forward and say that they have problems and issues. You'll see a lot of that, say, get together and talk that everyone is having the same problems. But they won't come forward, so I think it's both male and female.

CONAN: Daria?

Ms. SOMMERS: I think an important thing that we discovered working with the Lioness and telling this story, is that for some of the women who have come back and are suffering from PTSD, and when they go - in one case in particular, when she went to the VA to seek counseling, the counselors were all men, and the combat PTSD group was all men.

And now, because women are really more increasingly in the thick of it, but it's not necessarily recognized. So she was questioned where they said, did you really do that? Are women really doing that? So there was this disconnect, and that part of it was problematic.

CONAN: And your film focuses not just on what the women actually do in Iraq, but what that does to them.

Ms. SOMMERS: Exactly.

CONAN: Stay with us. That's Daria Sommers.She's co-director of a new documentary called "Lioness," about women in direct combat warfare in Iraq. We're also talking with Sergeant Ranie Ruthig and Captain Anastasia Breslow, members of the Team Lioness, who are with us here in studio 3A.

Again, if we could hear from women today who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan, give us a call. 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking with two members of Team Lioness, the group of women who went to Iraq as mechanics, clerks, signal officers, and quickly found themselves in direct ground combat. During their tour, Daria Sommers and her co-director followed the women with a camera and turned their stories into the documentary "Lioness."

You can find more information about the film, and see photos of the women from Team Lioness at our web site at npr.org. The film will also air nationally on PBS's part of the "Independent Lens" series. So along with Daria Sommers, two members of Team Lioness are Captain Anastasia Breslow and Ranie Ruthig, who's a sergeant in the Kansas National Guard.

We'd like to hear from women in our audience who've served in the armed forces, especially those who've done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, tell us your story. Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org, and you can send us your comments on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

We're also encouraging those of you who are dealing with the flood situation in the Midwest to send us your stories now by email. We'll be taking calls on that later. Again, the email address is talk@npr.org. Let's get another caller on the line, and this is Amanda, Amanda with us from Cleveland in Ohio.

AMANDA (Caller): Hi there. I first wanted to thank the team members for their service. As the daughter and sister of current Naval officers, I understand your contributions are very important. But I also wanted to touch base with the filmmakers, and thank them for keeping us so up to date on the minority populations that are taking part in this conflict. I think in past conflicts, such as World War II, it took a long time for those contributions to come out, the contributions of the minority population such as the African-American troops. And I just wanted to thank you very much for bringing this to the forefront.

CONAN: We could point out, women are in fact the majority population, just the minority in the Armed Forces, but Daria?

Ms. SOMMERS: Thank you very much. Yeah, we - there are certainly, you know, one of the things that we found is that, you know, when you follow a story in the military right now there, it's a real reflection of this country, and, you know, there's - you know, people from every kind of background, and so it was - it's very easy to do something like this and get a real range of background.

AMANDA: I think that a lot of - when I meant minority, I think that a lot of - I don't think a lot of people understand the amount of women that are actually seeing the combat because of the laws that have been passed. So minority meant those that were actually ending up in those situations so that I think is very important to portray.

Ms. SOMMERS: Right. And I think making the film was - one of our goals was also to, sort of, represent this disconnect between the public understanding and the reality on the ground. So I do understand.

(Soundbite of laughter)

AMANDA: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Amanda. Captain Breslow, have you been back to Iraq since 2003?

Captain BRESLOW: I have not. My husband is currently serving in Iraq.

CONAN: And I wonder, based on his experience and from other people you talk to, has the situation changed much?

Captain BRESLOW: It's improved.

CONAN: A lot?

Captain BRESLOW: He tells me how - he's in southern Iraq, how the Iraqi army and the Iraqi highway patrol are taking over newer and longer stretches of road, and that the Army doesn't need to patrol them, that they just go out and check them every once in a while. That they're taking back their country and there's less and less for him to do, and he likes that. And he does more integration with the Iraqi army and the Iraqi highway patrol, instead of doing the missions himself.

CONAN: Ranie Ruthig, have you been back?

Sergeant RUTHIG: No, sir, I haven't.

CONAN: And is your unit up for another deployment?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Well, there's always a deployment looming somewhere. But I talk a lot with the guys that have come back from the Guard and everything, and we'll sit down, and my story's a lot different than what their story is now, and they said, you were in a different era of that.

CONAN: Yeah, it's short. 2003 seems a while ago, at this point.

Sergeant RUTHIG: Only five short years, and the changes have come through when we talk is a large amount.

Ms. SOMMERS: And I'll just add that the women were over there from, like, really, 2003 through 2004.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Julie. Julie is calling us from an Air Force base in Germany.

JULIE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

JULIE: I am a military spouse, my husband is stationed here in Germany, and I was calling to ask if the women have - are married with children, and if they've experienced criticism for going on deployments and performing their duties for the country?

CONAN: Captain Breslow, I know you're - you just said you were married.

Captain BRESLOW: I am married. I don't have children yet. I've been putting that off until we could be together. Deployments make it difficult.

CONAN: Deployments make it difficult. What about you, Ranie?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Actually, I got divorced while I was over in Iraq, and I have a beautiful nine-year-old daughter.

CONAN: And it's interesting, Daria Sommers, you show these soldiers as soldiers. You also are very careful to show them as women, too. As mothers and as daughters and as sisters.

Ms. SOMMERS: Yes, that was very important to Meg and I to tell their stories and create a space for them and their lives so that we have some context for their - what they've been asked to do and the service that they're giving and what they've had to - the lives they've kind of had to leave behind, then return home. Because now we have mothers and daughters and sisters and women just returning home with - and bringing the war back home with them, and so that's a turning point in the history of women in service.

CONAN: And getting back to Julie's question. Ranie, were you criticized at all for going on deployment when you have a child?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Actually, I've - most of the people in question is who watched her, and her father watched her, and he did a wonderful job. A man can raise a child just as well as a woman can.

CONAN: Julie, how's it going for you?

JULIE: I'm fine. My husband is home. He's not deployed at this time, and I just - as a military spouse, as a female, we receive a lot of support from other wives in the bases and the family support centers here. I have friends who are active duty, and sometimes I just wonder about their husbands when they're left behind. And if they're receiving everything that they need, that we wives get.

CONAN: Interesting. What would you say about that, Anastasia Breslow?

Captain BRESLOW: I think a lot of the men find it intimidating to participate in the family support groups because they're so women dominated. But my husband went to a couple of them, and all the ladies adored him because he went to the massage class so that he could give me a massage when I got home. And he was one of the only people that dressed up when I got back, and he was in a suit. Everybody else was in T-shirt and jeans and had roses and everything, and I think he dealt with it very well, and the support system was there.

CONAN: Julie, thanks very much, and we wish you and your husband the best of luck.

JULIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

JULIE: Bye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller in. And let's go to Kathy, Kathy with us from Sacramento.

KATHY (Caller): Hi. My name's Kathy, and I actually served back in 1982 through '86. And I felt that at the time, we were having difficult times receiving equal treatment in the field with our male colleagues. And so I'm wondering at this point how the females feel that they were treated by male colleagues in this situation?

CONAN: Sergeant Ruthig?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Well, I'm a track mechanic, which is a heavily-dominated male MOS, or job, if you will.

CONAN: Specialty.

Sergeant RUTHIG: And it's quite hard for a woman mechanic to step into that, I guess the boys' playground. But I turned a wrench and lifted my share of tires and engine packs and earned their respect. And it's no different, when a male comes in they're not going to let you change an engine if you don't know what you're doing.

CONAN: And what about you, Captain Breslow?

Captain BRESLOW: I haven't had any issues. As long as you're competent, they accept you. You know, the two people that I hung out with most when I was in Iraq were men, and, you know, those were the guys that if I had a bad day, I went and talked to them. And you know, if we needed to unwind, we'd play volleyball or cards.

Ms. SOMMERS: I would just add...

CONAN: Daria Sommers, go ahead.

Ms. SOMMERS: That one of the wonderful things that Meg and I discovered in doing the film on these women on the Lioness was that these women are all really competent. They're very able, and so it was a real - it really presents a narrative where the women are really able to do their jobs and do them quite well.

Captain BRESLOW: I think, if I can also address that, when you came in - when they were experiencing the transition at that time, it was a lot harder for them to accept women in this role, and with the generation changing, the younger soldiers, you know, they know. They go to AIT and basic training with these women, so they're used to it.

CONAN: And expect it.

Captain BRESLOW: Yes, absolutely. Because - since we're limited from the combat arms, you know, for the infantry and the field artillery, sometimes it's a little bit harder to integrate with us. But for our peers in signal and ordinance and all the support units, it's much easier.

CONAN: Kathy, thanks for the call.

KATHY: Thank you, that's great to hear.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

KATHY: Bye-bye.

CONAN: Let's go now to Helen, and Helen is calling us from Miami in Florida.

HELEN (Caller): Yes, good morning, or afternoon. How are you?

CONAN: I'm well, thank you.

HELEN: I have two daughters. One is coming back from Iraq in a couple of months and another one is getting deployed in December. As a parent, I started listening to your program and to these women who are wonderful and they do a great job for us, for our nation. As a parent, what can I do?What kind of support can I give them? What kind of - what can I do for them when they come back and they don't really want to talk?Because like you said, most of them are type A, and in the case of my two daughters, both officers, one aviation and one transportation, are both type A

Captain BRESLOW: Wow, yes.

HELEN: Can you please help me a little bit in understanding what should I do?

CONAN: Well, we'll turn first to our type A sergeant here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sergeant RUTHIG: I guess what my parents did for me was - I'm very lucky that my dad was in Vietnam and he understood what I went through and came back, and of course, when I came back I was a good, oh, about 40 pounds lighter and really hungry. And my mom made all of my meals and just sat down and told me, if you ever need to talk, I'm here for you.

CONAN: And what would you say, Anastasia Breslow?

Captain BRESLOW: Definitely tell them that you're proud of them and that you appreciate everything that they've done. Don't do it too much. One of the lieutenants that was staying at my house, she just came back, she's like, my parents just keep telling me how proud they are. But definitely let them know that, and just be there to listen and, you know, let them feel at home because that's what they want when they come back.

HELEN: Well, thank you so very much. They are coming - one is coming back in, like I said, at the end of July, we're looking forward to her opinions and things and the wonderful job they do with the troops. And I just want to thank you all for everything. Thank you so much.

CONAN: And Helen, thanks very much for calling, and we wish them both the best of luck.

HELEN: God bless you, thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go now to Jaycee(ph), Jaycee with us from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

JAYCEE (Caller): Yes.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

JAYCEE: Sarge?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Yes.

JAYCEE: You been there, you did it. Nine years, Army, '61 to '70. And if you ever hit Baton Rouge, Sergeant, I'll buy you a beer.

Sergeant RUTHIG: Thanks so much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

JAYCEE: And you can bring the Captain.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Captain BRESLOW: If I have to.

JAYCEE: Bye.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Jaycee.

We're talking with Anastasia Breslow, a captain in the army, and with Ranie Ruthig, a sergeant in the Kansas National Guard. They both served in Iraq in 2003 in a unit called Team Lioness. Also with us is Daria Summers, who is co-director of a documentary about that unit and about what women do in Iraq and about what Iraq does to them. It's called "Lioness," and it will be airing nationally on PBS as part of the "Independent Eye" series.

Ms. SUMMERS: "Independent Lens."

CONAN: "Independent Lens" series. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

Here's an email we have from April in Glenside, Pennsylvania. "Thank you for your service. I'm an Air Force veteran myself, but have not seen combat. Since women are actually now serving in combat and doing so as soldiers and not just as women, are there any rumblings of the actual law regarding women in combat changing, or will the women in combat simply continue to be ignored by the current law?"

Well, I think you might have something to say about that, Captain Breslow.

Captain BRESLOW: Actually, I can't talk about policy. I'm still active duty.

CONAN: You're still active duty?

Captain BRESLOW: Yes.

CONAN: What about you, Sergeant?

Sergeant RUTHIG: I think the more it'll change, the more they'll realize that the need is there and the women are placed there. I really don't - I guess I'm not too much of the women's libber much, but I mean, a woman has a job, she has to do it. It's no different than the mom cleaning up behind the kid. You know, mom spit. And so, you know, women have the resolution to stick with their job and get it done. The law will change once they see and more women come back.

CONAN: And what have you been doing here in Washington?

Sergeant RUTHIG: Actually, we went up to the Capitol and I guess just kind of seeing around. It's great because it's my first time up in Washington, D.C. I've traveled in Germany, Iraq, Korea, so ...

Captain BRESLOW: And I'll just add that we've been up in - up on the Capitol actually talking to some of the leaders in Congress and talking about, you know, this disconnect, and it's very important to try to get women out of this gray zone of recognition.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Kamala, Kamala with us from Slicklerville or - or tell me where you're in, in New Jersey.

KAMALA (Caller): I'm in Sicklerville, New Jersey.

CONAN: Sicklerville in New Jersey, OK. Go ahead, please.

KAMALA: Well, in 2005 I deployed with a National Guard unit, with a finance unit, to Bakuba, Iraq, and I was involved not in direct combat but indirect combat where mortars would hit way too close for comfort, and one of my buddies was injured, had shrapnel. And as rattled as I was, you know, after the whole thing happened, I was actually able to bounce back from it. The very next day it was business as usual. And I guess that's just the way your good training kicks in.

So I just wanted to hear from these two females who were actually involved in direct combat, you know, how resilient were you? Because I know it just sounds like - I can assume that you two, you know, both were very resilient and, you know, just kept going with the mission. I just wanted to hear your take on that.

CONAN: Anastasia Breslow?

Captain BRESLOW: It was business as usual afterwards. You're surprised at how you react in that everything seems familiar. The training prepares you for that. One of the disconnects that we did have, though, was with the combat training. We're not as well trained as the men when it comes to, you know, knowing all of the different weapons systems and being integrated with the Marines, who speak differently than we do. So one of the things that - after our missions, we would AAR, and there were constant improvements on it. So it wasn't exactly business as usual because we were trying to adjust to this new mission.

CONAN: And Ranie Ruthig?

Sergeant RUTHIG: I guess I don't really realize that there was ever a difference. If you came back after the mission and everything, you were, I guess, more hyped up, I guess you could say you felt more alive when - just it comes so close and...

CONAN: It's a vivid experience.

Sergeant RUTHIG: It is, and I guess I always have to curse at my S-3 because he told me, you know, it might not bother you now, just wait a few years down the road.

CONAN: The operations officer, yeah. Daria?

Ms. SUMMERS: I just wanted to - there's one character in our film who wasn't able to be here today. Her name is Shannon Morgan, and you know, I think also what's clear is that for some of these women who have gone on repeated missions and found themselves in direct ground combat, certainly more than once and many, many times, actually, that when they return, and this is true with Shannon's story, it really - it sets in. And so it may - it may not be while you're still in Iraq, it may be when you come home, and it may not be the first month, it may be the third month. And so that's the time period when you really have to be more self-aware and those around you should as well.

CONAN: And Kamala, what about in your case? Has it ever come back in your dreams, perhaps? I think she's left us. Anyway, thank you very much for the call.

And thank you all for being with us today. It's been a real experience. I've really much enjoyed it. Anastasia Breslow, captain of the United States Army who served in team Lioness in Iraq, back in 2003. Also Ranie Ruthig, a sergeant with the Kansas National Guard, also at that time a member of team Lioness. And Daria Summers, co-director of the documentary "Lioness," which will be broadcast nationally.

Ms. SUMMERS: With Meg McLagan.

CONAN: With Meg McLagan, on PBS, as part of the "Independent Lens" series. Thank you very much for being with us.

Sergeant RUTHIG: Thank you very much, Neal.

CONAN: And coming up, we want to hear your stories about what's going on in the Midwest. We'll open the phone lines to those of you in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and other effected states. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email, talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan.It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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