Local Marines are ready if needed

Monday, October 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The Pentagon deployed 41,000 women to serve during the Gulf War. They made up about 7% of the American armed forces, the largest deployment in US history. How different is a military woman's role in America's New War?

News on Six reporter Tami Marler says when Jessica Collins was a little girl, she never dreamed of being Miss America or a supermodel. She didn't wear frilly dresses or high heeled shoes. "I just kind of fit into that image of being a tomboy and I just grew up that way, and I've never really been into all that glamour." So at the age of 12, Jessica started talking with her mother about her dreams. "I always told my mom 'This is what I'm going to do, I'm going the Marine Corps and I'm going to the FBI.'" She's like, 'no, you'll change your mind when you get older.'"

But Jessica never did change her mind. Now - as a Marine reservist - she trains alongside men who grew up with the same dreams. They expect as much out of her as they do themselves. "A Marine's a Marine. It's pretty much the exact same training, and she's expected to perform to the exact same standards."

There are hundreds of thousands of women in the US military. Major Jim Izen says federal law prohibits women being assigned to combat units. In this Broken Arrow training unit, Jessica's fellow Marines could be sent to war, but she would continue her current responsibilities somewhere else. "Doing what needs to be done, typing up papers, filing, anything that needs to be done on the computer." But Jessica says she wouldn't hesitate if the rules changed, and the President called her to defend her country. "It's just something I feel strongly about. I want to be out there and physically doing something for my country. And if I could yes - I'd be out in the middle, fighting." Just like any other United States Marine.

Of the nearly 270 Americans killed during the Gulf War, about a dozen were women. The first female prisoner-of-war was also captured during Operation Desert Storm.