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Decorated female Army medic shares view of women's combat role change

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FORT DRUM — As the military starts to allow women to serve in more prominent combat roles, a highly decorated female flight medic at the post recounted her experience working in a dangerous combat situation in Afghanistan and her thoughts about the policy change.

“I believe there are plenty of women who can do the jobs,” said Sgt. Julia A. Bringloe, a Distinguished Flying Cross recipient. “As long as they don't change the standards of any particular MOS (military occupation specialties), then women should be able to be given a shot.”

She called the change “exciting news” and a sign of the military moving forward.

Multiple outlets have listed Sgt. Bringloe as only the seventh woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross, an exclusive club whose first member was pilot Amelia Earhart.

Over the course of three days while on deployment in June 2011, Sgt. Bringloe and her helicopter crew overcame difficult conditions to bring supplies to and pull out more than a dozen soldiers wounded and killed while fighting insurgent forces in eastern Afghanistan during Operation Hammer Down.

Sgt. Bringloe, from the C company of the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, lowered herself down nine times from her crew's Black Hawk helicopter to pull in soldiers, fracturing her shin on her second descent when her line was pulled toward a tree. She faced heavy enemy fire with no protection on two of her descents.

“I'd be lying if I said that there were times where I wasn't scared,” she said in September when she received the award, adding at the time her training helped her stay focused on her work.

The 2011 deployment was the second in the five-year career of the Bainbridge Island, Wash., native.

Two other members of the helicopter crew, Chief Warrant Officers Kenneth G. Brodhead and Erik Sabiston, also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions. Another crew member, Spc. David Capps, received an Air Medal with valor. The crew's work was named the 2011 Air/Sea Rescue of the Year by the Army Aviation Association of America.

Noting she had already been in combat situations, she said the changed policy did not affect her flight medic work.

“For me, there is no change,” Sgt. Bringloe said. “We're already doing it.”

She added she had found no issues when it came to working with men.

“We're in the business of saving soldiers' lives. Being proficient at our job is extremely important to our job,” Sgt. Bringloe said. “It's not our gender that's important.”

Military service branches have until May 15 to submit plans about their implementation to the secretary of defense.

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