FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service) -- The first 10 female lieutenants to graduate from the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course crossed the stage Wednesday to be accepted into the infantry branch.
In April, Capt. Kristen Griest graduated from the Maneuver Captain's Career Course and donned the distinctive blue infantry cord, becoming the first female infantry officer. However, these were the first women to graduate from Infantry BOLC.
"Up front I'll tell you this makes us a better Army," said Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
"What we've done is, we've created a gender-neutral, standards-based training environment," Wesley said at a media roundtable just before the graduation. He explained that the Army has now defined the physical standards for each occupational specialty. "So it no longer becomes a question of male or female."
"And once you get to that minimal threshold, we say, oh, by the way, we've doubled the population from which we can recruit talent, so it makes us better."
The first women are expected to graduate from Armor BOLC on Dec. 1, becoming the Army's first female armor officers. In February or March, the first enlisted Soldiers are expected to report to infantry and armor initial-entry training. More than 120 women have already signed up under the delayed entry program, Recruiting Command officials said.
The Army's policy, officials said, is to get the female officers in place first and prepare the way for women who will be serving in infantry and armor units.
The first female infantry lieutenants will attend Ranger School, Airborne School or other follow-on training, then report to units at Fort Hood or Fort Bragg.
"We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations," Wesley said, "and ultimately they will migrate out to other installations."
The 10 female lieutenants were part of a class of 166 officers who graduated Wednesday from Infantry BOLC and Brig. Gen. Pete Jones, Infantry School commandant, said all of them had to work together as a team in order to succeed.
"It doesn't matter the sex," Jones said. "It doesn't matter the nationality. It matters we're a team and we're here to cover the mission."
Jones said top-notch training occurs every day at the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
"This is an important moment," Wesley said about the graduation, "but this is something that in many ways is business as usual."
"We've been integrating women into the military for years, " he said. "They've fought and bled alongside us for years."