COLUMBIA, S.C. - Staff Sgt. Rachelle Dutton, a South Carolina Army National Guard medic with the 1-118th Infantry Battalion, graduated from the 11B Infantry Transition Course, North Little Rock, Arkansas, October, 25, 2018, making her the first female non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the South Carolina Army National Guard with the military occupational specialty (MOS) of 11B (Infantry).

The 11B Infantry Transition Course is a physically demanding and mentally challenging program designed to qualify individual Soldiers, with prior service, in the combat critical tasks required as an infantry Soldier.

"When the opportunity to integrate females into the combat arms MOSs opened up a few years ago, I immediately wanted to transfer to 11B," said Dutton. "I had already been a medic for eight years. I was originally with the Oklahoma National Guard and then deployed to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 before transferring to the South Carolina Army National Guard. I was ready for a new challenge."

There are 12 physical tasks that each Soldier must complete during the course while wearing proper Soldier gear, otherwise known as "full battle rattle" weighing up to 90 lbs.

"The course was more physically demanding than I had anticipated," said Dutton. "However, I had received a lot of support from my peers as well as from the leadership, encouraging me and helping me train, so I was ready."

Some of the tasks she was required to complete included a 20 km tactical foot march, evacuating a casualty to safety by dragging a 270 lbs. person 15 m, moving under direct fire and completing a 5-mile run in under 45 minutes.

Dutton's graduation and transition to 11B is historic as the South Carolina National Guard actively moves towards integrating women into all MOSs in-line with the U.S. Army's Gender Integration Implementation Plan.

The Army has been managing the assignments of women through a "leader's first" approach, where women are eligible to branch infantry or armor, followed by female NCOs, before female enlisted Soldiers enter the units to ensure that they are assigned to operational units with integrated/established female leadership in place.

"I have experience integrating female medic Soldiers into this environment," Dutton explained. "I can use my past experience to help me lead the integration efforts for female Infantry Soldiers in my new position."

Dutton will now be working as a full-time training NCO for B. Co, 1-118th Infantry, out of North Charleston, South Carolina.