Tuesday February 19, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- This week’s FORUM, a weekly program at Berkshire Community College, is a timely one, especially after the announcement that women are now allowed in combat -- even though it’s apparently already happened.

Rachel McNeill, a 28-year-old internal relations major at Harvard University, was in combat long before the announcement, serving in the Army Reserves from 2002 until 2010. She was medically retired as sergeant.

McNeill was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as a heavy construction equipment operator and drove dump trucks and semis when she was in combat in 2005, according to Don Lathrop, a philosophy professor at Berkshire Community College who’s organizing the program.

"Women have been in combat," he said. "She’s certainly not the only one -- she’s just the only one that I know of."

McNeill was in Tikrit, Samarra, northern Iraq, and Ramadi, where she was the only female in her gun crew.

The unit’s primary mission was protecting convoys, and she either drove the gun truck or was a gunner.

McNeill’s talk is at 12:15 p.m. in Room 111 of the Koussevitzky Arts Center at BCC. McNeill came home with the the after-effects of war, but was denied that symptoms, such as asthma, were not a result of the war since women were not "actually" in combat, according to Lathrop.

Lathrop is also associated with the Berkshire Citizens for Peace, the group that advocates for peace in a standout every Thursday in downtown Pittsfield.

"This program is just a continuation of our effort to let people know the difficulties and the horrors of war in many ways," Lathrop said. "It’s not just the people getting shot at on the other side, but our own people as well."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
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