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With the end of the draft in 1973, the military turned greater attention toward recruiting women, but struggled to treat them as equals -- the Pentagon's 1988 "Risk Rule" officially excluded women even from support missions if they were deemed as likely as combat troops to take a bullet. "'If he doesn't know by now, let's not tell him until the war's over.'" This kind of doublethink was a standard part of Cornum's experience in the Gulf.The first Gulf War soon proved this doctrine untenable, however, as a clear gap emerged between the risk rule and the facts on the ground. The call to war was a big change for Cornum, a biochemistry and nutrition Ph. recruited by the Army in 1978 to study wound healing -- when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, she was primarily conducting research on helicopter pilot performance and helmet-mounted displays. "So when people would come around or dignitaries would come," she says, "they'd send me off to the motor pools." Yet by the end of the Gulf War, Cornum had participated in roughly one-quarter of her battalion's attack missions.

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She broke both her arms and a finger, tore knee ligaments and, yes, took a bullet, but nonetheless managed to crawl out of the wrecked bird.

She and the two other survivors of her eight-person crew spent a week as Iraqi prisoners of war before being released. "My boss got promoted again." A 1993 Government Accountability Office study concluded that the some 40,000 servicewomen who deployed to the Gulf performed well on all fronts.

More than 400,000 women served during the World Wars, but as the United States demobilized, the military pushed women back to the homefront.

During Vietnam, Congress began to recognize that more women were needed for the U. military machine, repealing legal provisions that had prevented them from comprising more than 2 percent of the nation's troops. "I said, 'Well, I've been living in the parking space next to him in the Dhahran Airport parking lot for the last four months,'" she says.

Now, he says, "There is no front line, no protected circle where we can hide the women." ATTACHMENT VS.

ASSIGNMENT The military is about to roll back the part of Aspin's rule that bars women from officially serving in direct ground combat units below the brigade level -- allowing them to be assigned at the narrower battalion level, in specialties in which they are already serving.

At the report's release in February, the DOD announced plans to open 14,325 more jobs -- an additional 1.2 percent of that total -- slated for implementation on Monday.

"The Department of Defense is committed to removing all barriers that would prevent Service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant," the report says.

"Women have shown immense courage and have contributed greatly to our mission -- we simply could not accomplish our objectives without them," Patton, who served as a top commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in an email.

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