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National News

January 27, 2013

Women in combat? Already there, Old Guard says

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Dentino, an explosives-detection dog handler with the military police at Fort Myer, served for nine months in Afghanistan as a member of a cultural support team, where she would go along on combat patrols to help interact with residents.

She returned in November.

Before that, she served two tours in Iraq, as a gunner and then as a team leader on convoys. "Every deployment, I've done combat missions," said the Homestead, Fla., native.

"The whole females in combat is not a new thing," she said. "I think people are just not aware that there are women out there who have done it."

In Afghanistan, local women were "pleasantly surprised to find [American] women in these roles," she said. "A lot of times, they assume you're a male, because of all your gear."

"Then when you actually show that you're a woman, they're a lot more receptive to you," she said. "They're a lot more willing to converse with you.

"They usually want to touch me," she said. "They want to know a lot about me. They want to verify that I'm a woman. . . . And so it's encouraged to kind of wear your hair down, and let them know."

The women also "want to know why it is that I'm able to be around other men," she said. "They're restricted in that culture. To see a woman out there kind of being treated equally by men is unheard of to them. So they're very intrigued by that."

As fluid as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could be, there remains a difference between direct combat and noncombat roles, she said.

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