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Film explores roles of military women

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | NOVEMBER 10, 2009 7:20 AM

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Military women are moving to the frontline to face missiles — something uncommon a decade ago.

Cameras caught this transition in a documentary titled Lioness, which will be shown today at 5 p.m. in the IMU second-floor ballroom. Admission is free.

The film follows five U.S. Army women who saw action during the Iraq conflict in 2003 and 2004 despite a policy banning females from direct ground combat. They joined men on ground patrols to allow troops to better interact and provide comfort for civilians as a way to avoid conflict.

Drew Hjelm, a UI junior and the president of the UI Veterans Association, which sponsored event, said many people aren’t aware of women’s direct involvement.

“This film talks about a topic that people don’t really think about,” he said. “Nowadays, women are dying just like men are in the battlefield. We want to bring awareness about women veterans out there.”

Lioness also deals with how females in battle cope with coming home from the frontlines.

“A lot of [the film] is about them going on with their lives,” Hjelm said. “Some of them stay in the military, some of them don’t. They are just trying to make the best of everything.”

Gulf War veteran and Veteran’s Association treasurer Cate Hartmann, a UI graduate student in rehabilitative counseling, wants to remind the general public of what the military is doing.

“We’re trying to draw more attention to the fact that we’ve been at war for eight years now,” she said. “That’s a really long time. We’re making a lot of veterans out of this. I think a lot of people in this country like to ignore the fact that a war is going on.”

Hartmann compared the current situation with other periods of conflict in U.S. history. She said people aren’t responding like they have in the past.

“I remember as a kid [during Vietnam] seeing lists of names on the television of people who died,” she said. “But now, we’ve gotten to the point with technology where we don’t have a lot of deaths, but we have a lot of injured soldiers who lost a limb or something like that. We’re not even acknowledging that these people exist.”

The documentary also touches on women’s combat preparation, citing they only had one to two weeks basic training before deployment.

“They were given weapons they weren’t trained on and put in situations they weren’t necessarily ready for,” Hartmann said. “But there wasn’t time, and they asked for volunteers, and you have to be able to do what needs to be done, right then. This is an example of the type of situations our soldiers, male or female, have to adapt into, and I don’t think people understand that.”


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