Washington reporter and News Media Guild member Lolita Baldor earned last week’s Beat of the Week prize with a huge scoop that surprised even members of Congress: details on how the U.S. military will allow women to serve in combat positions.
Baldor, who covers the Pentagon, worked her sources throughout the military to produce a package that laid out the timing and procedures under which women will be integrated into forces from the infantry to elite special ops teams.
Beginning in January, when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted restrictions barring women from fighting roles, Baldor pursued sources across the services for info on how that would be done.
Baldor leveraged each bit of info she amassed on the plans to get more from other service branches. That started with getting a source to provide a report to the current defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, on how the Rangers, Green Berets and Delta Force are to gradually integrate women. Then she got plans on how women would be brought into the Navy Seals.
She broke the news the day Hagel was to brief key members of Congress, and a day before his planned public announcement.
Baldor’s story noted women may start training with the Army Rangers by July 2015 and the Seals a year later, and explained the women will have to meet the same rigorous physical and mental standards as men.