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CNN "Newsroom" - Transcript - Women In Combat


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Up next, the Defense Department lifting the ban on women serving in combat units. Up next, we will speak with Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She's one of the first female vets to serve in Congress. I will get her take. That's next.


LEMON: It's a military action many women troops have been longing to see. Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, signed the order lifting the ban on women serving in direct combat units.


LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: And if they are willing to put their lives on the line, then we ought to recognize that they deserve a chance to serve in any capacity they want.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: By eliminating the direct combat exclusion provision, the burden used to be on -- the burden used to be that we would say, why should a woman serve in a particular specialty?


LEMON: Joining me now is an Iraq war veteran who still serves as a military police captain for the National Guard, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Tulsi, I have to say, in full disclosure, we have become fast friends. And so I just want to tell our viewers that you're a wonderful person.

We all know women as medics, mechanics and other support roles have been fighting in combat zones, despite what policy says. What's your reaction to what the Pentagon did today?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: First of all, Don, just want to say aloha to you and to all of your viewers.

And it's special for me to be able to share this moment today with you and with everyone, because it really is a significant moment for us, but also for history and for our country for all the women who are currently serving overseas and putting their lives on the line every day, for the 1.8 million women who have worn the uniform at time or another and those who have put their lives on the line literally for generations, going back in the history of our country.

With this move today, it really is an official recognition by the president and by the Department of Defense for all these women who have already been serving in these combat roles.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about specifics here, really the reality of it, and talk about the strength and all of that and the conditions on war zones.

As you know, some elite units have stringent physical requirements. Like, to be a Navy SEAL, you have to be able to do 50 pushups in two minutes. Do you think the military should adjust those qualifications for women?

GABBARD: No, I don't.

I think that if there is a good reason to have very high requirements in a physical realm for some of these jobs, they shouldn't change those just for women because there are incredible women out there who are ready and champing at the bit, not only to meet those standards, but exceed them.

And I will tell you about a good friend of mine who I went through the military police school with, Captain Diana Lay (ph). She did 100 pushups in two minutes. And she is a great example of one of our many fine women warriors that we have out there.

LEMON: OK. Men and women are different. We know that, Tulsi. How should the military handle pregnancy, for example, for women in combat units? Should a combat unit leader be able to direct a woman member not to get pregnant?

GABBARD: Well, look, I think that the point here is both men and women are professionals. They care very much about the mission. They are there because they are there to serve our country.

Looking at someone in a deployed setting, it's not in their best interest to get pregnant overseas, but if it happens, it happens. And we take care of each other. The point really is that we have a highly trained and highly skilled and very motivated force. And by opening these doors to women, we will only be stronger because of the unique capabilities that women bring to the table.

LEMON: Representative Tulsi Gabbard, thank you very much.

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