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Operation: Embed

A letter from the editor of the November 2018 issue of 5280.

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It’s not often that the editor of a city and regional magazine has to decide whether to send one of his staffers to Afghanistan, but that scenario landed on my desk earlier this year when features editor Kasey Cordell asked to embed with a field artillery unit from Colorado’s Fort Carson. It was a compelling proposition: Cordell would be witnessing some of the first gender-integrated howitzer crews the U.S. Army had ever deployed to a war zone. From a journalistic perspective, green-lighting the trip was an easy call. From just about every other perspective, it was not. The logistics of sending a reporter into a combat zone are complicated and sobering. Cordell needed approval from the U.S. military and the Afghan government; she had to secure body armor and safe transport in Kabul; and she had to take out an accidental death and dismemberment insurance policy. These are not things 5280 deals with on a regular basis, and it was not a simple decision to send a colleague and friend to a place the State Department has on its “do not travel” list. Cordell, however, believed it would be valuable to see how these mixed-gender combat units fared in battle, and she was right. Her story, “13 Bravo,” is an exclusive look at how the Army is incorporating women into combat jobs. It’s a narrative told from a war zone, yes. But it’s also a story about how cultural norms have dictated the composition of our fighting forces—and a tribute not only to the women who have served in the past, but also to those who are breaking barriers by serving in these new roles today.

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