Basic Combat Training Soldiers sing the "Army Song" as part of their graduation ceremony. E Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery Brigade was the first gender integrated training cycle to graduate since it was re-established on Fort Sill.

Inspiring doesn't even begin to describe the first gender integration training graduation held March 12 at the McMahon Auditorium in Lawton, according to the participants and friends and family who attended.

Barriers between sexes didn't exist in E Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery Brigade as both males and females shared outstanding achievements.

The new graduates sat together in what seemed like a random order until they approached the stage with two females leading the way. The first was Pfc. Marie Floyd, the recipient of the distinguished honor graduate of the cycle award. That award is presented to the Soldier who demonstrates overall excellence in training and character development throughout the training cycle. When asked if she believed the females gained anything from training alongside men she said it made them stronger.

"We got the same training the men would get, and we were able to stick with them," she said.

The second female to cross the stage was the recipient of the Physical Fitness Award. It's presented to the Soldier who achieved the highest score on the final Army physical fitness test. Pfc. Edit Szomor earned the award at the age of 42 with a score of 342 points , exceeding the maximum score of 300 points. She said the physical part was easy for her as fitness has always been a part of her life in Hungary, and she trained for two months before going through basic combat training.

"I wanted to be prepared, because I knew if I wasn't, it was going to be really tough for me, but I didn't know that I would be that prepared," Szomor laughed.

When she arrived at the reception battalion she was already pumping out 50 push-ups shocking the females and at the same time earning the respect of the males.

"They totally looked up to me and said they would go to battle with me because I never stayed behind. I'm physically fit, and they don't have to wait for me. I can keep up."

Following right behind was Pfc. Kyle Konkel, the basic rifle marksmanship recipient, who hit 40 out of 40 targets with an M-16 rifle. He felt gender integrated training was going to prepare him for his future Army career.

"We're going to be working together in the field so it just makes sense that you train together starting out as well."

As far as any awkwardness training alongside the opposite sex, Konkel said it was more of a learning experience.

"Some of the males would try to help the females and would be put in their place very quickly."
"Out of 151 Soldiers, almost a third were females. Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Kory Ferris never worked with women in his prior duties in the military, so he had to adjust.

"A lot of my battle buddies helped me to see that you need to treat females the same as male Soldiers and that everyone is the same really."

He was surprised to find some of the males would cry just as much as the females. Stereotypes aside, Ferris said they all grew as Soldiers together.

"I saw these guys when they couldn't do a single pushup and they were sitting there so lost. And now they're walking across the stage as Soldiers. It's a pretty good feeling for me."

Words from Lt. Col. Todd Wasmund, commander of the 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, summed up the event for America's newest Soldiers, "Your service is significant. All of you have helped write a special chapter in the history of basic combat training here at Fort Sill. This is the first class to include men and women for more than 10 years. Many expected that gender integrated training, as the Army calls it, would present new challenges. By all accounts all of you have proven it is really no big deal. It's not about men and women. It's about Soldiers. All of you have completed the same tough and realistic basic training that is designed to prepare you for the challenges and opportunities that await you. You've earned the right to call yourself Soldiers."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16