Armed combat isn't a goal for Fort Frye High School senior Teya Bennett, but if, as a U.S. Marine, she's asked to take up arms on the front lines alongside male soldiers, she won't hesitate.
"I would do it any day they told me, 'Teya, you're on the front line.' I would walk into it with pride," she said.
To many younger area residents, the debate over whether women should be able to serve in the same direct combat positions as men seems outdated.
"We decided quite a while back that women should be treated equally, right?" said Waterford High School senior Joab Camp.
Camp plans to join the Marine Corps after attending college and enrolling in an ROTC program. A student of jiu jitsu for the last six years, he said he feels concerns over women not being able to handle the physical rigors of combat are overstated.
"I know that even the smallest of girls can easily take down a 6-foot-4, 250-pound man," Camp said, noting jiu jitsu practitioners utilize leverage to overcome differences in size. "I've been thrown by a 26-year-old, 90-pound (woman)."
Warren High School senior Zach West said he can see why some people would be concerned that a male soldier might feel overly protective toward a female but he doesn't think that would be an issue among men and women who complete the same training together.
"At that point, you don't really consider yourselves individuals; you're part of a team," said West, who also hopes to join the Marines.
While West is somewhat surprised the debate is continuing, he said he doesn't think the resistance is about gender discrimination so much as it is wanting to protect people who aren't generally in those positions from the negative experiences of combat.
"I think we're just trying to look out for them," he said.
Still, men and women who join the military should be treated the same, West said.
Marietta College junior Kathryn Hanssen said she feels allowing women in combat is a matter of fairness - to men.
"It's not really fair to men to be the only ones to serve in combat," the 21-year-old from Indianapolis said.
If women want to serve in that role and demonstrate the ability to do it, in Hanssen's eyes, there's no reason they shouldn't.
"Obviously with the proper training, women should be able to protect themselves," she said.
MC freshman Megan Abrams said her experience in ROTC during high school, with a female first sergeant overseeing the program, and talking with female friends in the military have shaped her opinion.
"They've always believed that if the women are able to then they should be (allowed) to," said Abrams, a 19-year-old from Sandy Hook, Ky.
She's heard that arguments against it include respect for the gender that bears children and the greater impact on men of seeing a woman's dead body on the battlefield than a man's, but to Abrams, that doesn't justify exclusion.
"She shouldn't be denied, I mean, 'cause she's willing to do it," she said.
Sophomore Eric Miranda, 21, of Cleveland, said he's glad the military is making adjustments as society changes, opening more roles to women and ending the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy barring soldiers from being open about their homosexuality. But while he thinks women are certainly able to serve in combat roles, he has some reservations because of the struggles the military has with sexual abuse in its ranks.
"The levels of rape and sexual assault that are occurring in our military are really a scandal," Miranda said. "I think that if you're going to move in that direction then that's an issue that really needs to come to the forefront and be addressed."
Reports of sexual assault in the military have risen from 2,688 in fiscal year 2007 to 3,192 in fiscal 2011, according to the Department of Defense's Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. During that time, the armed forces have worked to encourage increased reporting of incidents as well as promoting prevention and improving response capabilities.
"It's sad, but I'm actually more concerned about (women's) safety in the presence of our forces than I am about their safety in the presence of our enemies," Miranda said.
Bennett said she had not really considered that issue, but admitted the possibility of getting wounded or killed has given her pause.
"That does not set me back," she said.
Another concern is getting judged by the men she would train alongside, but Bennett believes that as they pursue the same goals together, that would cease to be an issue.
Ultimately, women join the military for the same reasons as men, Bennett said, and they should be treated accordingly.
"We go to fight; we go to be there and support our country," she said. "We don't just go there for, 'Oh, I went through training and I got this badge.'"