Ask Rep. Tulsi Gabbard why she supports the military’s new policy to allow women to serve in combat roles, and the Iraq war veteran speaks from experience.
“I can tell you during my deployment, there were missions that I-- volunteered for and was not allowed to go on, simply because I'm a woman,” Gabbard, D-Hawaii, tells Top Line. “They said, ‘Sorry, no. No girls allowed.’”
Gabbard served in Iraq and says the military’s policy shift is much more than symbolic.
“What we see in the policy change now…is just a reflection of what women have already been doing in the military,” she says. “And it'll now open those doors so that we can have women serving in positions of leadership and within units where previously they were not allowed.”
Gabbard also brings a first-hand perspective to the issue of sexual assault in the military, saying she “heard and saw incidents” of sexual assault within her military camp when she was in Iraq.
“We got issued rape whistles so that as we walk out of our tent or walk out of our hooch, we've got our body armor, we've got our helmet, our weapon, and we've got our rape whistle,” Gabbard recalls. “It was an eye-opening experience to have to consider that fact when we're serving overseas in Iraq and…this is a risk or a danger that exists.”
On Capitol Hill, Gabbard, a freshman representative at age 32, says she sees a “great opportunity” to work with “the next generation of leaders being elected.”
She adds that there’s a “collective impatience” among younger members of Congress, and she has joined the United Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan caucus composed of mostly young, rising representatives.
“It's been relationship-building, but also very substantive to say, hey, in these issues of job creation, of healthcare, of reducing the deficit, we've got to be able to find areas that we can agree on,” Gabbard says of the caucus.
For more of the interview with Gabbard, and to hear why she says sexual assault is undermining the military’s values, check out this episode of Top Line.
ABC's Cindy Smith, John Parkinson, Eric Wray, Alexandra Dukakis, Betsy Klein and Dick Norling contributed to this episode.