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Female Soldiers: fighting, dying for their country

Army News Service

Release Date: 3/17/2004

By Sgt. 1st Class Marcia Triggs

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 17, 2004) - Through the course of liberating Iraq, female Soldiers have conducted air missions, kicked down doors, disarmed mines and shed their own blood. Sixteen female Soldiers have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

When 19-year-old Pfc. Rachel Bosveld found out that she was going to Iraq she said, "'Dad I get to go,' not I have to go," her father, Marvin Bosveld, recounted from Wisconsin. "She was proud and excited about going to battle for her country."

Bosveld was a military police officer with the 527th MP Company out of Giessen, Germany. She narrowly escaped death Sept. 12, when her Humvee was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade when her team came under fire. She sent her brother, Craig Bosveld, an e-mail describing the event.

"It was loud, there was shouting, my team leader's seat was on fire. I found my seatbelt, but it was stuck. . Okay, the door. Open the door. Just my luck, a 400-pound door is stuck. First the seatbelt now this. More shouting. Seems so far away, like a voice at the end of a tunnel. Got to get the door open or we're going to die."

Bosveld escaped that ambush with a few bruises and stiff muscles, but was killed Oct. 26, in a mortar attack on the Baghdad Police Station.

A violinist and soccer player in high school, Bosveld didn't take a backseat to any one, Marvin said. She would say, "I love arresting these Iraqi men because I know how they treat their women."

In October 1994 "The Risk Rule," which was used to determine which assignments should be closed to women was rescinded, and that made 91 percent of the career fields gender neutral, according to officials from the Office of the Chief of Personnel, G1. That amendment to assignments policy and others like it allowed women like Bosveld and Capt. Kimberly Hampton to get closer to the action, G1 officials said.

Hampton was killed when her OH-58 Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter was attacked near the Iraqi town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. She was a company commander with 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Hampton supported infantry Soldiers by providing fire support and observing ground action. She was the division's first company commander to die in the war on terror.

"She loved being a Soldier. She didn't consider herself a female Soldier, but a pilot serving her country, who just happened to be a female," said Ann Hampton, Kimberly's mother. "She was an only child, and as a parent you just want your child to be happy."

"I miss her though, it's a physical pain going on without her. Knowing that there won't be a wedding or grandchildren. Our lives revolved around Kimberly," Ann said as she took a break from packing up Kimberly's Fayetteville home. "I'm terribly sad and empty, but there are 550-some other families who are going through the same grief."

Daughters, wives and mothers are vying for adventure and the chance to serve their country at increasing rates. "My Kimmie joined the Army because she wanted to do something exciting. So it wasn't surprising when she told me that she was going to be working as an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) specialist," said Carol Fahnestock, the mother of Staff Sgt. Kimberly Voelz.

Voelz of the 703rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, Fort Knox, Ky., died in her husband's arm in Baghdad from her injuries after an improvised explosive device detonated before she could disarm it.

Voelz and her husband, Max, were both staff sergeants serving in Iraq as EOD specialists. "I always knew in the back of my mind that she had a dangerous job, but she never really talked about it," Fahnestock said. "I never worried about her because when it's your time God will call you home, no matter where you are."

Before "Kimmie" died Fahnestock said she knows her daughter saved countless lives. She excelled at her job, her mother said. She was a team leader and trained a lot of Soldiers under her, she added.

Women can do anything men can do, Fahnestock said. "Kimmie" held her own, and wanted to retire from the military.

Fahnestock said Voelz had re-enlisted a month before her death, and was going to be stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., only hours from her hometown. "It would have been the first time in seven years that we would have lived near each other," Fahnestock said. "Now I'm looking forward to helping Max find a house, and hopefully he'll let me help him decorate."

History was made when Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, a mother of two, from the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, Fort Bliss, Texas, was the first servicewoman to be killed in the war. There have not been any female casualties in Afghanistan.

Piestewa's unit was considered a support unit, and in countless interviews the surviving members have said that they didn't expect to see any combat. The Iraqi combat zone doesn't have the imaginary line separating the front lines from the rear, Army officials continuously point out. Unlike Bosveld, some Soldiers may not recognize the risk of being on a battlefield because they have a noncombatant job. But Bosveld told her mom that if someone calls, she's injured, and if someone comes to the door, she's not coming back.

"When the officer came to my door, it was worse than any nightmare," said Mary Bosveld, Rachel's mother. "I just went numb."

Spc. Frances Vega, 20, an administrative specialist, was killed in Al Fallujah. Sgt. Melissa Valles, 26, an automated logistical specialist, was killed in Balad. Sgt. Keicia Hines, 27, a unit supply specialist, was killed in Mosul. All three women served in jobs that put them in little contact with the enemy, but they died serviing their country.

"It hit me again that Keicia was gone when I received a box of her things from Iraq," said Sgt. 1st Class Sean Hines, Keicia's husband. "The smell of her hair items took me back. Keicia was my boo (sweetheart)."

Sean, who is a combat engineer, said that he has been deployed most of his military career, and agrees with the Army's new policy that every Soldier has to be a rifleman first.

"We're Soldiers. It's out profession," Sean said. "But that won't make it any easier for me when Keicia's unit comes back in April, and she's not with them."

Fallen Female heroes:

Capt. Gussie M. Jones, 41, from 31st Combat Support Hospital, 31st Air Defense Artillery, from Fort Bliss, Texas.

Pfc. Nichole M. Frye, 19, from Army Reserve, Company A, 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Pfc. Holly J. McGeogh, 19, from Company A, 4th Forward Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division (Mech), based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Spc. Tamarra J. Ramos, 24, from 3rd Armor Medical Company, Medical Troop Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Carson, Colo.

Sgt. Keicia Melia Hines, 27, from 108th Military Police Company, 503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.

Capt. Kimberly N. Hampton, 27, from 1st Battalion, 82nd Aviation Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Staff Sgt. Kimberly A. Voelz, 27, from 703rd Explosive Ordnance Detachment, Fort Knox, Ky.

Sgt. Linda C. Jimenez, 39, from 2nd Squadron Combat Support Aviation (Maintenance), 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Polk, La.

Chief Warrant Officer (CW5) Sharon T. Swartworth, 43, Judge Advocate General Office, Headquarters Department of the Army, Pentagon

Pfc. Karina S. Lau, 20, from 16th Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas

Spc. Frances M. Vega, 20, from 151st Adjutant General Postal Detachment 3, Fort Hood, Texas

Pfc. Rachel K. Bosveld, 19, from 527th Military Police Company, V Corps, Giesen, Germany

Pfc. Analaura Esparza Gutierrez, 21, from A Company, 4th Forward Support Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas

Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson, 27, from C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Sgt. Melissa Valles, 26, from B Company, 64th Forward Support Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo.

Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, 23, from 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, Fort Bliss, Texas.

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