Area veterans supportive of new changes allowing women in combat roles

Women will soon be allowed in all combat roles throughout the armed services. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that plan Thursday, ordering the military to open all jobs to women, including the most dangerous command posts.

It’s a change many local veterans are calling unsurprising.

A 27-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Southern Illinois University Veterans Services Coordinator John Copeland says Thursday’s announcement to allow all armed forces roles be opened to women has been a long time coming.

"The military has sort of reached that point now where yeah, it’s normal to see women in uniform, it’s normal to see them carrying a weapon, it’s normal to expect them to do the mission," said Copeland.

Calling it "the new normal," Copeland says he’s seen a shift in opinions over the past two decades, as more and more people embrace women in the service.

Zane Ecklund, a Navy veteran, says he’s not surprised by the announcement, seeing so many women serving alongside him on ships while in the Navy.

"On the ship, I believe they could do any job. Yeah, I’m pretty sure they were well represented. I had women in my office and my boss was a woman," said Ecklund.

Ecklund says if women can do the job, let them do it.

"But it really is an acceptance of changing roles," Copeland said.

While the change is making waves, both agree it’s in line with evolving gender roles around the country.

The new rules allowing women to serve in all roles are expected to be implemented after 30 days.

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