The First Women Graduates of Army Infantry Training
The Army is not making a fuss about it, but this is one of those moments in history that is a big deal: the first eighteen women, out of forty-four accepted for Army infantry training, recently completed the grueling boot camp and graduated. These are the first women to complete infantry training in two hundred years. Dave Philipps of the New York Times writes that the Army is not making a fuss because it has taken great pains to develop “gender-neutral performance standards to ensure that recruits entering the infantry were all treated the same.”
Philipps explains that in 2013, the Obama administration ordered the military to open all combat positions to women. Prior to 2015, the Army did not allow women in combat positions. Nonetheless, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, women who were not technically in combat roles were forced into firefights while serving in support roles. The Army was able to witness how well women performed in combat with nearly 14,000 women awarded the Combat Action Badge for engaging with the enemy. Because these women were not formally in combat roles, though, they did not receive combat pay, and, Philipps explains, they were “barred from the core combat positions that are the clearest career routes to senior leadership.”
Obama opened these opportunities to women, and in 2016 the first class of women entered the Army infantry training program, despite warnings that
- Women would never be able to handle the demands of the infantry.
- The presence of women would destroy its all-male esprit de corps.
These naysayers were wrong. In boot camp, women and men trained together in mixed-gender squads from before dawn to after dark. Some of the original forty-four women who entered the training dropped out, as did some of the men. The standards were the same, and no special treatment was given to anyone.
These women worked hard to forge this new pathway for women, and they deserve to be acknowledged for their accomplishment.