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CNN "The Situation Room" Transcript: Women in Combat

Interview

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BLITZER: So, there's work to be done, but that's good reporting by you. Chris Lawrence over at the Pentagon.

Let's get some reaction now from a woman who did seek combat, the newly elected United States Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. She was one of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq. Then in 2004, her helicopter was hit by ground fire. She lost both legs in the explosion. She was awarded the purple heart.

Congresswoman Duckworth is a Democrat now from Illinois. Thank so much, congresswoman, for coming in. Thanks so much for your service to the United States of America. Let's get your immediate reaction to the news that the defense department will announce tomorrow. Go ahead.

REP. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, (D) ILLINOIS: I think this is a great announcement. I think it's good for our military, Wolf, and I think it's great for our nation. You know, we have an all volunteer force, and I think that this opens up a pool of folks who could serve in these positions.

And, any time that we've opened up our military to performance- based service, whether it was with African-American units and Japanese-American units in World War II or with gays in the military, we've benefited as a nation and we've benefited as a military. So, this is good for the nation.

BLITZER: Another freshman congressman, Tom Cotton from Arkansas, also a veteran, a veteran from both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he disagrees with this decision. He says that there'd been study after study, in his opinion, to show that only men can really do what is necessary in real combat because it's the nature, the upper body strength, the physical, the speed, and endurance, and so forth. He doesn't believe women really have those kinds of qualities. What's your respect to Republican Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas?

DUCKWORTH: Well, he's certainly welcome to his opinion. There are many different combat jobs, tank commanders and armor, artillery, those are combat jobs as well as so are infantry. And you know, there was study after study after study during World War II before we allowed African-Americans to fly air planes because people thought that African-Americans did not have the mental capacity to fly aircraft.

Yet, look at the heroism of the Tuskegee airmen who never lost a bomber (ph) aircraft that they were escorting. So, you know what, let's just open it up, make it based on performance. If the women can't meet the standards, then they don't get to graduate from the program to do the mission. But if they can meet the standards, then we've just gained another soldier who is willing to serve this nation and willing to lay their lives down in a combat role. And that's good for our military.

BLITZER: Good to get your reaction, congresswoman. Thanks very much for coming in.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.


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