SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Wife and mother, 22-year-old Jacqueline Feeney is the first female recruit in the California Army National Guard to be sworn into a combat arms role today, June 12th at Cal Guard's Joint Forces Headquarters.
While other Cal Guard females have re-classed to infantry, artillery and armor since the Department of Defense lifted the combat exclusion policy in 2016, Feeney is the first, non-prior service, new recruit.
Feeney said she always considered military service but only wanted to enlist if she could work in the field she desired. "As soon as infantry became available, I knew I could sign up for the job I really want," she said. Feeney's been working with Cal Guard recruiting for 3 years and is excited about enlisting as an Infantryman/11B, the best road to Special Forces her true, long term goal.
She was sworn in by Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager, also a prominent Cal Guard female first. Yeager will make history when she assumes command of the 40th Infantry Division, June 29th. Feeney's unit falls under the 40th, a division led by only men since it was formed in 1917.
"It's been a long time coming and we're very excited when we learned the Army was going to open up combat roles to women," said Yeager. We've been working for several years in order to achieve that goal. Finding the right women and getting units prepared to accept females in the ranks and that day has come!" said Yeager.
Col. Richard Mifsud, commander of the 40th Infantry Division's 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team said, "This is an important day for the Cal Guard, but for my brigade, it's huge! The female integration into combat arms is something we've supported from the beginning."
"It's taken some time to get the mentality to change," said Mifsud. "Some people were not ready for this change. It's not they didn't want it to happen, they just didn't know how it was going to happen. The real solution is that we put people in there and let's go."
What advice does Yeager offer Feeney and other females interested in combat arms? "I get asked a lot about what it's like to serve and I tell people all the time, this is a fantastic career with great opportunity and I hope that more women and men will make this their first choice for a career," said Yeager.
Feeney will ship to Basic Combat Training later in the year. Until then, she currently works as a machinist with Shell Oil. She graduated from Foster High School in Granton, PA and finished a 2-year trade school and 1-year apprenticeship. Her hobbies include rugby, ice hockey, motorcycle racing and using her machinist skills to make chainmail, armor made out of metal rings linked together. With her Irish and Scottish heritage, she enjoys attending and participating in Renaissance Fairs and Scottish Games.
"I'm so excited for the Cal Guard. This is a chance to highlight how diverse and inclusive we are in the military," said Yeager. "I think it's something that many people outside the military wouldn't really understand or appreciate -- we enjoy a very diverse and inclusive working environment."