Fort Benning sees more gender integration in Armor officer course

Fort Benning sees more gender integration in Armor officer course

(WTVM) - For the first time ever, the Army's Armor Officer Leadership Course welcomed its first female graduates on Thursday.

The integration comes after the Department of Defense opened all roles and schools, including direct action combat positions, to women at the start of 2016.

"What's consistent about it, is we always knew that when we entered this effort, that we wanted the process to be standards based," said Major General Eric Wesley.

Standards are one of the focal points many have turned to over the last year, as women begin the process of joining their male counterparts in previously male-only units and schools.

On Thursday, leaders at Fort Benning once again stressed the fact that standards for the Armor's officer program have not changed, and women are passing the bar.

"We treated them fairly, the same way we would treat any other person of any other gender, and we did just that. We helped them develop into platoon leaders and now they're going to go forward and become great platoon leaders," said one Armor instructor.

WTVM had the chance to sit down and talk to a group of new Armor officer graduates off camera, which for the first time ever, included women.
One male graduate says he sees it more as an integration of talent, rather than gender. Another male graduate explained how a female took home the classes fastest score for loading a 60 pound round, doing it in less than four seconds. The average is seven, the group says.

When it comes to backlash and skeptics over a woman's ability to serve in the armor branch, or any other for that matter, one female graduate says "If we need to change minds, I'm confident we will."

"Whenever you change the dynamics of an institution, no matter what, whenever any leader who leads in a direction that drives change, for the better, there's going to be some heat," said Wesley.

The women also told us they are proud and prepared to follow in the footsteps of other women who were pioneers in the Army.

All six graduates WTVM spoke with also said they have only known an integrated army, and are prepared to serve with those who may need some convincing that women can and will get the job done.

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