FORT BENNING, Ga., (Dec. 9, 2015) -- The first female to attend the Bradley Leader Course graduated Dec. 4 with 42 male Soldiers at Long Hall.

2nd Lt. Melanie Hindley, 10th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia, said she didn't know she was the first female to attend until her second day in the course. She said she didn't notice any scrutiny as the sole female in her class.

"I felt completely at pace with everyone else," Hindley said. "There's not really a difference between male and female Soldiers as far as being able to lead. It is all a matter of perspective from that particular Soldier's point of view."

Hindley commissioned in May 2014. She went through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at the University of Tampa, Florida. Her hometown is Front Royal, Virginia.

She said going into the Bradley Leader Course, she expected to gain the basic knowledge of operations and tactics of a Bradley fighting vehicle, but she said she found out much more. As an engineer, she said she found value in seeing the difference in another branch's perspective of the vehicle.

"I didn't just learn to command the vehicle, I didn't just learn how to command the platoon from that aspect, I also learned a lot about the Infantry side of things, the Armor side of things looked at operations," Hindley said.

According to the course description on the Fort Benning website, the Bradley Leader Course trains newly assigned officers - second lieutenant through captain - and NCOs - staff sergeant to sergeant major - serving in a Bradley fighting vehicle leadership position. The course trains new officers and NCOs on how to assume a vehicle commander position. The course assists commanders in achieving full operational capability in the shortest time practical by training and certifying students on the BFV system and providing unit commanders with training needed to sustain tactical and technical proficiency.

"You are now better prepared to assume those critical positions, such as leadership positions in the Armor Brigade Combat Team, which require you to not only command an amazing weapon system, but also lead a section, a platoon or a company," said Lt. Col. William Kahmann, commander of 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, and guest speaker at the graduation.

Hindley's advice to women interested in combat arms is to not be afraid.

"If they're qualified, then they're qualified, and that's all it comes down to," she said.

Upon Hindley's return to her unit in Fort Stewart, she said she will take a line platoon in the engineers as platoon leader over squads equipped with Bradleys that will be able to train and operate alongside Infantry to be able to instill and maintain the mobility, counter mobility, survivability that is the engineers' mission set, she said.

She was promoted to first lieutenant Dec. 7 when she returned to Fort Stewart. She hopes to attend the Sapper Course and earn the Sapper tab.