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Sunday, December 18 at 11 p.m. Independent Lens "Lioness"

(Rochester, NY) Lioness, a new film by Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers, tells the untold story of a group of female Army support soldiers who became the first women in American history to be sent into direct ground combat. Against official policy and without the training given to their male counterparts, but with a firm commitment to serve as needed, these dedicated young women ended up fighting in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the Iraq war. Yet these women are rarely—if ever— mentioned in news accounts of those battles. Lioness, which brings this story to light and is hosted by Terrence Howard, airs Sunday, December 18 at 11 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

On April 6, 2004, a Marine combat unit made its way through Ramadi’s narrow streets on a hunt for insurgents. As the soldiers turned a corner they were ambushed by hundreds of Iraqis; a series of firefights erupted and spread rapidly across the city, igniting a week of bloody combat. Spc. Morgan, 23, and Sgt. Ruthig, 28, squad automatic (SAW) gunners, both survived this bloody battle; others soldiers fighting along side them were not as lucky. The press has reported similar scenes and stories since this war began but what set this story apart is that both Spc. Morgan and Sgt. Ruthig are women. Despite Department of Defense policy banning women from direct ground combat, military commanders have been using women as an essential part of their ground operations in Iraq since 2003. The role of Lioness was a solution born out of necessity. Battalion commanders noticed how tensions exploded when male soldiers interacted with Iraqi women during house raids and decided the presence of the right female soldiers would help reduce violence. They began to regularly “attach” pairs of women to all-male combat units.

The film tells the Lioness story through the narratives of five key soldiers. Their personal stories, variety in backgrounds, and post-Iraq challenges as wives, mothers, and daughters collectively take us through the complex issues that female participation in combat provokes. Lioness is the first film to bridge the gap between the perception and the reality of the essential role women are playing in Iraq, capturing an historical turning point for American society.

To learn more about the film and the issues, visit the companion website for Lioness at pbs.org/independentlens/lioness/. Get detailed information on the film, watch video clips, read an interview with the filmmaker and find related links and resources to explore the subject in depth.

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