10 Women Graduate From Fort Benning's Infantry Officer Training


Without the media fanfare generated by the gender integration of U.S. Army Ranger School last year, 10 female soldiers made history Wednesday afternoon at Fort Benning when they graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Leadership Course.

In a ceremony that was not open to media, 166 lieutenants graduated from the course and became infantry officers. The 10 women join Capt. Kristen Griest as the only female infantry officers.

Griest, along with Capt. Shaye Haver and Maj. Lisa Jaster, was one of three women to graduate from Ranger School last year when the Army opened its most demanding combat leadership course to females. Griest transferred branches from military police to infantry in April and is currently assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Brig. Gen. Pete Jones, commandant of the Infantry School, said in a media roundtable on post Wednesday morning that the lessons learned from the gender integration of Ranger School carried forward as the Basic Officer Leadership Course was opened to women.

“It is all about standards; it is all about uniformity,” Jones said. “It’s Ranger, Ranger, Ranger. I think if you were to ask Capt. Griest, Capt. Haver and Maj. Jaster, they are not female Rangers – they are Rangers. I think it is the same thing with the lieutenants. It is lieutenant, lieutenant, lieutenant. They are going to be standing in front of their formation and they are going to be judged based on their leadership skills, not on whether they are male or female.”

Late last year, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter officially opened all military jobs, including combat positions, to qualified men and women. Much of the training for those jobs in the Army is done at Fort Benning.

The 17-week Basic Officer Leadership Course started with 12 women, two of whom did not graduate. Students are commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, ROTC at other universities and Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning.

Most of the soldiers, both male and female, will move into Ranger School in the next phase and will also attend Airborne School, Stryker Leader’s Course and Mechanized Leader Course.

“This is but the very first step in that process,” said Lt. Col. Matthew W. Weber, who commands the 2-11 Infantry Regiment, better known as IBOLC. “It is a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldier, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

And the physical and mental standards of infantry leadership have been maintained, said Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Davis of the 2-11 Infantry Regiment.

“There has been no change in the standards and the way the course has been run,” Davis said. “We are in the business of producing leaders and it doesn’t matter if they are male or female.”

Davis takes exception to the notion that the gender-integration process is new for the Army.

“We have been integrating females within the military for years,” said Davis, who has been in the Army 24 years with 17 deployments. “I look back at past experiences overseas and we have been fighting alongside females in the infantry for many, many years. I have seen them firsthand on the battlefield doing exceptional work.”

Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, said gender integration makes the Army better.

“The reason it makes us a better Army is because this whole issue has driven us to ensure we have the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said. “... By defining that, what we have done is we have a gender-neutral, standards-based training environment.”

It no longer becomes a question of male or female, Wesley said.

“Once you get to that minimum threshold, we say, ‘Oh, by the way, we have doubled the population from which we can recruit talent,’” Wesley said. “That makes us better.”

The first gender-integrated Armor Officer Basic Leadership Course, which is about two weeks longer than the infantry course, is ongoing, and 10 women have started that process.

When Haver and Grist became the first women to graduate from Ranger School in August 2015, it drew intense national media coverage. Just two Columbus reporters attended the media roundtables Wednesday surrounding the IBOLC graduation.

“What you are seeing here is an indicator that this is business as usual,” Wesley said. “We do missions in the Army and we get tasks all the time. And we are very good at doing that which we are asked to do. ... The Ranger aspect was new and there was a lot of scrutiny.”

The moment was historic, and Jones acknowledged that, but he also pointed to the future these lieutenants represent as they began their Army careers.

“My question as I look at every Infantry class is which one is going to be the next Col. (Ralph) Puckett? Which one is going to be the next Gen. (Stanley) McChrystal? Which one of these females is going to look at (four star) Gen. (Ann) Dunwoody and say, ‘I can do that’?”

The Army made six IBOLC graduates – three men and three women – available for a media roundtable. The lieutenants could be quoted, but not named, according to the rules outlined by the Army prior to the interviews.

Maneuver Center of Excellence Spokesman Ben Garrett said the post wanted to keep the focus on all the students.

“It is important to focus on the point that these lieutenants met the same gender-neutral-based standard to become future rifle platoon leaders,” Garrett said. “All the graduates meet the high physical demands of the course, and met the same standard as previous Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Courses. ... As they walk across the stage today, they will not receive the recognition as a man or woman, but as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.”


©2016 the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

U.S. Army photo
Jeff Schogol

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.

Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.

Read More Show Less

U.S. Special Operations Command may be on the verge of making the dream of flying infantry soldiers a reality, but the French may very well beat them to it.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared an unusual video showing a man on a flying platform — widely characterized as a "hoverboard" — maneuvering through the skies above the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris armed with what appears to be a dummy firearm.

The video was accompanied with a simple message of "Fier de notre armée, moderne et innovante," which translates to "proud of our army, modern and innovative," suggesting that the French Armed Forces may be eyeing the unusual vehicle for potential military applications.

Read More Show Less
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

If you've ever wondered if the Pentagon has ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with biological weapons, you're not alone.

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to find out if the U.S. military experimented with using ticks and other insects as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.

If such experiments took place, the amendment would require the inspector general's office to tell lawmakers if any of the ticks or other bugs "were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design."

Read More Show Less

There's no one path to military service. For some, it's a lifelong goal, for others, it's a choice made in an instant.

For 27-year-old Marine Pvt. Atiqullah Assadi, who graduated from Marine Corps bootcamp on July 12, the decision to enlist was the culmination of a journey that began when he and his family were forced to flee their home in Afghanistan.

Read More Show Less
(Facebook photo)

The Air Force has administratively separated the Nellis Air Force Base sergeant who was investigated for making racist comments about her subordinates in a video that went viral last year, Task & Purpose has learned.

Read More Show Less