FORT MEADE, Md. — The Army reached a number of milestones over the past two years as it continued service-wide integration of female Soldiers into combat career fields and other areas of service.
This summer, women made history at Fort Benning, Georgia, graduating as the first female cavalry scouts and M1 tank crew members. Earlier this month at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy named the first African-American woman as First Captain of Cadets.
As part of Soldier 2020, the recent integration efforts are led by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, overseeing an Army-wide program to better match Soldiers with career fields that align with their abilities.
The integration of women into armor and infantry began last year with officers leading the way so that female leaders would be in place at units when the first female enlisted arrived.
The Armor Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, has graduated 32 female Soldiers and one female Marine from its three-phase program. Also at Fort Benning, 21 female infantry officers graduated this year.
In addition, Fort Benning graduated 38 female enlisted Soldiers in its first gender-integrated Infantry One Station Unit Training, or OSUT phases.
Eight enlisted women have graduated so far as 19B cavalry scouts at Fort Benning while 10 women completed M1 armor crewman training.
At the Army’s prestigious Ranger School, seven female graduates made the cut since April 2016.
In all, the Army opened 138,000 combat positions to women in 2016.
To date, 567 female Soldiers have graduated from Fort Sill in artillery occupational specialties since the field was opened to women. A total of 601 women have become combat engineers after graduating from training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri since 2015.
The Army’s changing demographics in combat career fields has seen its impact among Soldiers, said Capt. Nargis Kabiri, one of the service’s first female field artillery commanders. Captain Kabiri was commissioned in 2010.
“What I’ve seen from 2010 to now is a change in culture,” Kabiri said. “Back then, I’d walk into a unit and people were hesitant to say anything because there was a female present. Now that culture has changed, when females walk into a room, everything remains the same because it’s become the norm.”
West Point Cadet Simone Askew became the first black woman to earn the title of First Captain or cadet brigade commander at the U.S. Military Academy. The 20-year-old history major was sworn in Aug. 14. Women were not allowed to attend West Point until 1976 and the academy graduated its first class with women in 1980.
“I can’t believe this has happened in my lifetime,” said Pat Locke, an African-American woman who graduated in the first class of female cadets. “When I entered the academy in 1976, the men did not want us there. Now 40 years later, everybody recognizes the talent and skills women bring to the game.”
(Editor’s note: Michelle Eberhart at West Point and Pfc. Zoe Garbarino at Fort Stewart, Georgia, contributed to this report.)
Follow Joe Lacdan on Twitter @LacdanARNEWS
Pictured above: 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment’s Bravo Troop Class 17-007 graduates at Freedom Hall June 22, 2017 at Fort Benning. Lt. Col. Daniel C. Enslen, 5-15 commander gave remarks. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright / MCoE PAO Photographer)