Nightly News | December 01, 2012
>>> the aclu filed a federal lawsuit to lift the ban on women in combat in the u.s. military . while women are permitted to fly fighter jets and attack helicopters, pentagon policy prohibits female soldiers and marines from serving in direct ground combat roles. but as u.s. military leaders struggle over how to bring women into ground combat training , two young women soldiers have already proven they've got what it takes. we get their story tonight from our chief pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski .
>> come on, man.
>> reporter: it's grueling, downright brutal, and at times borders on physical torture.
>> i'm beat.
>> why are you letting go?
>> reporter: it is the leader training course for combat engineers conducted in the back woods of fort leonardwood, missouri, one of the toughest combat schools in the army.
>> this is a dirty, nasty, tough course, and it is going to test you in ways that perhaps some people just don't want to be tested.
>> reporter: and the only combat training of its kind that accepts women. first lieutenant audrey motin and second lieutenant carly turnidge have signed up to try to earn the coveted title. both are graduates of west point. motin was in the seventh grade on 9/11 and decided then she would join the army.
>> i'm just very competitive and in the back of my mind i'm like, you can do this.
>> reporter: turnidge comes from a strong military family. her father was a green beret.
>> i'm still here to prove myself and prove i can do the same things the guys can do.
>> reporter: but here each must prove herself not as a woman but as a soldier.
>> it has to. the standard doesn't change just because they're a woman.
>> reporter: over 28 days with little sleep or food these 38 soldiers will go through living hl.
>> it's all part of pushing them to their limit and beyond.
>> if i can do it, i can do it. if i can't, then i tried my hardest.
>> reporter: that includes the buddy rappell. motin ropes down a hundred-foot cliff with a wounded soldier strapped to her back. then she runs for cover with soldier and all. turnidge easily pulls it off and earns a high five from her battle buddy .
>> anybody with the right mindset can definitely do it.
>> reporter: these sappers don't get any slack. if they can't cut it they're out. no excuses, no exceptions -- men or women. but the worst is yet to come. it's 4:00 a.m . morning drills with the 400.
>> i think we've identified the weakest link. he's right here. right here in front of me.
>> reporter: motin takes some heat.
>> back straight. you still have your butt in the air.
>> reporter: daylight brings no relief. turnidge and motin are determined to gut it out. seven men have already quit but they're hanging on with 14 days to go. jim miklaszewski , nbc news, fort leonardwood, missouri.