When Staff Sgt. Anitra Randall went through Basic Combat Training 12 years ago, Modern Army Combatives was not part of the curriculum.
Now, Randall is a drill sergeant with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment and one of roughly 150 female Soldiers in the Army who are certified as a Level III combatant - the second highest level attainable.
Randall was certified at Level I during her preparation to become a drill sergeant, but decided to take her training further soon after she got on the trail.
"I really didn't have a niche at my company at that time," she said. "I was trying to find something that was for me. I already knew that I was 'rough and tough' anyway."
Randall said she decided to continue her training because she wanted to improve her technical fighting skills. She recently spent four weeks at Fort Benning, Ga. to obtain her Level III certification.
"Level III is more advanced because it incorporates fighting while standing up," she said. "You learn how to box standing up and you learn more take-downs and more wrestling techniques."
Randall was the only female in her class, which automatically paired her against male Soldiers during practice fights.
"The first fight, I was fierce. I went all out with it," she said. "And, of course, since I was going all out, my counterpart went all out. He caught me in the eye. So after that, I learned to keep my hands up to protect my face. I didn't win, but I think I did well."
Randall plans to obtain Level IV certification in the future, which would put her in exclusive company. Currently, only one female Soldier on active duty is Level IV-certified.
Randall said she would not mind working as a combatives trainer after her tour as a drill sergeant is over. But for now, she is satisfied to have found her niche.
"I'm very happy with training the Soldiers that we have here," Randall said. "When you teach them a technique and they come back to you and say, 'Drill sergeant, that really works.' That makes me feel good."
In addition, she takes pride in the fact that other female Soldiers get motivated when they see that a female drill sergeant excels in hand-to-hand combat.
"You can just see it in their eyes," Randall said. "A lot of them say, 'If she can do it, then I can, too.'"