FORT STEWART, Ga. – Second Lt. Amanda Atkinson, assigned to the “Gila Battalion,” 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, graduated the U.S. Army Ranger School on Dec. 10 at Fort Benning, making her the first female Soldier in the 3rd ID and fifth in the Army to obtain both the Ranger and Sapper tabs. Atkinson had already graduated the Sapper Leader Course on July 2, 2019, at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, but now became the 94th female to graduate Ranger School, earning the right to wear both tabs – known as “double-tabbed.”
She also had a fellow Soldier from her unit, 1st Lt. Rafael Eirea-Lamberto, who graduated right alongside her and earned “double-tabbed” status as well.
“Lieutenants Atkinson and Eirea-Lamberto represent the fighting spirit of the Gila Battalion,” said Lt. Col. Brian T. Looney, commander of the 9th BEB, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. “I am extremely proud of these two leaders and their dedication to excellence.”
According to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade history webpage at https://www.benning.army.mil/Infantry/ARTB/History.html, Ranger School was developed during the Korean War and designed to build the combat skills of selected officers and enlisted personnel, "requiring them to perform effectively as small unit leaders in a realistic, tactical environment." The school is one of the toughest training courses in the Army and consists of 61 days of training and comprises three phases: Benning, Mountain and Florida. Candidates must successfully complete each phase.
When asked why Atkinson wanted to attend Ranger School after she had already graduated from the SLC and about her overall treatment as one of few females in her class, she said “I wanted to attend to better myself and improve my leadership skills before taking a platoon and being a female did not affect how I was treated at the school. My instructors and peers held me to the same standard as all the other ranger students.”
Atkinson, a native of Harbeson, Delaware, and Eirea-Lamberto, a native of Miami, Florida, both started and graduated on the same date and crossed paths many times while in training.
“The fact that I went with my peer Amanda Atkinson was awesome,” said Eirea-Lamberto, “We were in the same squad during Mountain phase and the same platoon during Florida phase. We pushed each other and watched each other’s back.”
Both Soldiers had the same mentor and trainer who started shaping them when they both trained-up for and competed in the 14th Annual Best Sapper Competition in May 2021 – a Master Sgt. Joshua Spaulding, former operations noncommissioned officer in the 9th BEB, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID.
“It is always an honor to train other leaders and see them succeed and then see them pay it forward,” said Spaulding. “Lieutenants Atkinson and Eirea-Lamberto have accomplished a lot this year, but their biggest achievement is probably all the other Sappers they have trained and help graduate the SLC.”
Also a part of the first all-female Sapper team to compete in the Best Sapper Competition this past May, Atkinson is a proven trailblazer. She offers advice to any female Soldier aspiring to achieve the same goal: “I would tell them if they put in the hard work, then they will be able to succeed at both schools.”