Lioness: The Story of American Female Warriors

In our story tonight on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, we’ll introduce you to women who never expected to fire a weapon while in Iraq but who ended up in urban warfare.

“It’s the longest few seconds before you pull the trigger, seems like it’s all in slow-mo,” 27-year-old Shannon Morgan, a former Army Specialist in Iraq, told me in an interview. “But you just got to keep telling yourself it’s either you or them.”

Shannon is one of the five women profiled in the riveting documentary called “Lioness” which airs nationally on PBS Thursday. The title, “Lioness,” is the name of the ad-hoc military policy which began in 2003. Women joined all-male combat units to comfort Iraqi women and children during house to house searches.

“Women were playing a really, what seemed to be a really different role in the conflict in Iraq and we recognized that this was a historic shift in what women were being asked to do,” said Daria Sommers, co-director and co-producer of “Lioness.”

What the film does is open your eyes to what women are actually doing in Iraq, how they weren’t given any combat training (Lioness women now get combat-weapons training) and how they struggled in ways only their fellow Lioness sisters could understand when they came home.

That’s bullshit. Every female in the United States Army gets weapons training. I fired and trained with M16s, M4s, M60s, grenades, claymore mines, and LAW Rockets.

The Pentagon has since made Lioness an official program and now trains women to operate combat weapons but still bans them from direct combat roles.

Newsflash, Pentagon: When you’re getting shot at anywhere in a combat zone, that’s direct combat.

Shannon Morgan grew up in small-town Mena, Ark., shooting squirrels for fun.

But when she went to Iraq as an Army specialist, she found herself having to shoot and kill the enemy.

“When you take another human being’s life, it’s like maybe part of you, like your soul, you know? You just leave it behind. It changes you forever,” Morgan said.

Women aren’t supposed to be serving in combat positions – it’s against U.S. policy, CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.

A new documentary to air on PBS called “Lioness,” describes how women in support roles are finding themselves in ground warfare.

“I guess it’s hard to say that, yeah, we’ve been in combat ’cause I was just doing my job. I mean, we all joined the Army,” Staff Sgt. Ranie Ruthig said. “We didn’t join the Girl Scouts.”

“Lioness” started as an ad-hoc policy. Women, like Spc. Rebecca Nava, joined all-male combat units to search Iraqi women and children.

……Battle buddies Morgan and Ruthig went on missions together. One day Morgan found herself all alone and the target of enemy fire.

It’s the longest few seconds before you pull the trigger. Seems like it’s all in slow-mo. But you just got to keep tellin’ yourself, it’s either you or them.

“How does everything you’ve seen and experienced, how did that change you?” Wallace asked.

“I think I left a piece of, piece of myself,” Morgan said. “Maybe the innocence, so to speak. Maybe I left some of that back over there.”

……”They need to be able to use women in this way and they will probably need to in future conflicts,” said Meg McLagan, one of the filmmakers who made “Lioness.”

Link to video:

It’s about damned time that the dedication and sacrifice of women in the military got its due in the press and even among our counterparts in the service.

Women warriors, individual and organized, have fought for millenium.

This isn’t news to us.



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