By Debbie Gregory.
Integrated training of men and women soldiers has played out at the Maneuver Center of Excellence in a public way since early 2015, when 19 women became the first soldiers to attend Ranger School.
Eighteen women at Fort Benning, GA., just became brand new privates and specialists, graduating from One Station Unit Training. A big deal? Yes, because they are the first women to take the enlisted route to become infantrymen.
The historic Army gender-integration events have played out at the center over the last four years, and this was the final phase.
The graduates will be going to units where women will be in positions of responsibility at platoon, company and battalion level.
Of the 48 women trainees who arrived at Fort Benning in February, 32 of them were deemed ready to attempt basic training without any additional physical training. The 18 graduates were among those 32 soldiers.
There were 148 men who started the class, and 119 of them graduated.
A year ago, the first women to attend the basic officer leadership courses began the integration of the officer ranks in Armor and Infantry. Last October, 10 women graduated the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course. Last December, another 10 women graduated the Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course, becoming first lieutenants.
Because the Army is trying to protect the identity of the women who just graduated basic training, the Maneuver Center of Excellence officials only allowed limited access over the last three weeks of the 14-week training.
“These soldiers want to be treated as soldiers,” said Kris Fuhr, a 1985 West Point graduate who has had the opportunity to get to know many of the women who have attended Ranger School, ABOLC and IBOLC over the past two years.. “They are not seeking special attention. They are at Fort Benning to train just like any other soldier. Their accomplishments are no different than their classmates who also meet the standards and graduate. They want to train, head out to their units and contribute to the mission.”
And the training was demanding, said Kendrick.
Currently, there are about 100 women either training or getting ready to do infantry basic training at Fort Benning.