February 20, 2007
by Jon Kalahar
Ft. Irwin, CA -- Soldiers from Fort Benning's Third Brigade are preparing for their third deployment to Iraq. They're wrapping up final training at Fort Irwin, California. Not only are the front-line soldiers being tested there, so are those who supply them. And those ranks are made up of a lot of women.
The saying goes-- an army can only go as far as it's supply line. If that's the case then thank the women who make up the brigade support battalion. And just like the soldiers training to catch insurgents or find roadside bombs, these soldiers have to prepare for Iraq as well.
"If you didn't have the females back here doing the jobs that we do when the infantry guys pull their triggers the bullets wouldn't come out," said Lt. Nastassia Robinson.
The women soldiers we spoke with are here because this is what they want to do. Chief Warrant Officer Pandora Searls has served sixteen years in the army. The Third Brigade's next deployment will be her third. "From my experience, I see, it's pretty much equal opportunity for females. There are restrictions when it comes to combat but overall we pretty much have and equal opportunity."
And the camaraderie is the same for these soldiers as it is for those riding in Bradleys or tanks. Staff Sergeant Christine Vasquez says the only thing that separates them is the women sleep in their own tent. "We work together. Everybody becomes part of a family out here or anywhere else. You just become integrated and there's no problem."
And just like for the men, these soldiers worry about what's happening at home. "I have a pretty good family base at home, but for some of the soldiers, you have more challenges, you've got single parents and doing the military and it's quite a constraint, but everybody deal with it as we can."
The third brigade likely will deploy in mid-March. They can't give specific dates for security reasons. It will take about a week for the three-thousand soldiers to leave Fort Benning.