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Female Anzac's death reignites debate

Female Anzac's death reignites debate

Mon August 20, 2012 4:46pm

THE death of the first female Anzac to fall in Afghanistan threatens to re-ignite the debate about women serving on the front line.

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, a medic with the New Zealand Army, was killed yesterday morning in Bamiyan Province when her soft skinned Humvee vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).

Also killed were fellow Kiwis Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, and Private Richard Harris, 21, who were escorting a comrade to the doctor when they were fatally wounded by a huge blast.

New Zealand is one of just 11 countries to allow women to serve in combat roles along with Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Australia is set to follow suit after the Gillard Government gave the green light in the wake of the ADFA skype sex scandal.

Female troops already serve in combat roles such as medics, drivers, intelligence officers and air crew in helicopters and Hercules transport planes, but are banned from joining combat infantry, engineer and special forces units.

There is no such thing as a "frontline'' in the conflict in Afghanistan and anyone travelling by road anywhere in the country is at risk.

Women routinely patrol with Australian mentoring task force units so they can question local women who are barred from talking to male soldiers.

The first female American to die in combat in Afghanistan last year was US Army National Guard First Lieutenant Ashley White, 24, a medic posted to a cultural support team who was also killed by an IED.

Lance Corporal Baker is New Zealand's first female casualty since the Vietnam war.

Kiwi defence chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones said the US-built Humvee was used because there were places that light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) could not go.

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