The Army just graduated 166 new infantry officers from its basic leadership course at Fort Benning, and for the first time in history, that number includes women.
Ten female lieutenants graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Leadership Course on Wednesday, marking the close of the first class that was gender-mixed. The women earned the infantry blue chord and join only one other female infantryman: Capt. Kristen Griest, a former military police officer who transferred to the infantry in April after she became one of the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School.
The 17-week course consists of classroom instruction, live-fire training, physical fitness, land navigation, and other fundamentals for officers who will later be tasked with leading a platoon of some 30 soldiers. After graduating IBOLC, most will go through additional training such as Ranger or Airborne school before being assigned to an infantry unit.
“We are in the business of producing leaders and it doesn’t matter if they are male or female,” Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Davis, the senior enlisted soldier at IBOLC, told Army Times.
The military has been slowly integrating females — previously excluded from some occupational specialties — into combat jobs such as infantry and armour, following policy changes initiated by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013.
Most of those changes affect the Army and Marine Corps, which have the majority of combat-related jobs. While the Marines have graduated some enlisted females through its infantry training pipeline, it has had no women graduate its own infantry officer course, though more than 30 have tried.
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