FORT DRUM, NY. - For many people, being the first to accomplish something or represent a community is a position of honor that puts them center stage and on a platform. It could also imply that a person is special and unique. However, First Lt. Sydney Dossett from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division doesn’t want to be seen as special. For her, being the first female infantryman officer to earn certain accolades is secondary to what she has to offer as a leader.
While studying at West Point, Dossett immediately knew she wanted to lead her fellow soldiers. Initially her drive and her gravitation towards military life came from a sports perspective, especially the concept of being part of a uniform team. She was commissioned into the United States Army on May 25, 2018, and from there, she quickly put herself in a position to achieve her goals as an officer.
“As an officer, you can lead soldiers no matter what position you're in, but I really was attracted to the idea of being a light infantry platoon leader because I felt like I would be good at it,” said Dossett, when asked why she chose to commission as an infantry officer.
Having recently earned her Expert Infantryman Badge at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division, Dossett has been the first as a female infantry lieutenant to receive significant infantry merits within the Division. She is the first lieutenant to be awarded the infantry blue cord, which officers earn after completing the Infantry Officer Basic Course in the U.S. Army Infantry School. She is the first lieutenant to also earn her Ranger tab. She is also the first to be a rifle platoon leader. While Dossett isn’t the first woman of the 10th Mountain Division to earn some of these qualifications, she is the first female commissioned infantry lieutenant to do so while stationed at Fort Drum.
Dossett says that for infantry soldiers and officers, the Ranger tab is extremely significant for their careers. On some level, there is almost an expectation to go to Ranger School and earn a tab in order to be taken seriously and show serious commitment to the work. Being the only female officer among her peers, she felt motivated to showcase her ability to be a fully equipped infantryman.
“It isn’t my primary motivation, but my motivation is just to be the best leader that I can to all of the soldiers that I might affect,” said Dossett. “But definitely, the whole reason behind things like the Leaders First Program is for creating a space for female leadership in the Army.”
The Leaders First Initiative was a gender integration program implemented in response to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement in 2013 that all military occupational specialties would be open to women if they weren’t open to women previously. Two female senior enlisted or commissioned personnel must be within any given unit for any female soldiers to be also assigned in that same unit for leadership and mentorship purposes. For the infantry occupation, officers like Dossett are integral to the growth and evolution of the future infantry soldier and officer; infantry ranks grow more slowly than other military occupations.
“I definitely feel the weight of the responsibility that I'm often the first female infantryman that a lot of people interact with, and I'm going to be setting their expectations for anyone else that they see down the line.” Dossett went on to say that being as competent as she can is definitely something she factors in as to how she contributes to the integration of female infantry soldiers and officers. She says it is a shame people think that way, but if officers like her are competent in their jobs, people will learn to trust women in their jobs in infantry occupational specialties.
One of the main reasons Dossett decided to serve at Fort Drum was the chance to deploy abroad, one of the true tests for an infantry soldier or officer. Dossett deployed to Afghanistan in 2020 in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel with 3-71 CAV. While the peace treaties had just gone into effect when her unit arrived, she and her unit still took some indirect fire.
Moving forward, Dossett says that she only plans on furthering her career as an officer. After successfully completing earning her EIB, where she passed every prerequisite on her first try, she is going to be establishing her command time and going through the Captain's Career Course. When prompted, Dossett said that she would want to impart to her fellow military personnel that they should not look to her and other soldiers and officers like her as “exceptions” in combat arms.
“I think there are a lot of other women out there who are just as competent if not more competent than me, and I am by no means the most physically fit woman I've ever met, but I still manage to pass a PT test and the grenade throw,” she said. “I think there are a lot more women out there who will succeed at the things that I've done and even more.”
After the initial writing of this article, Dossett earned her cavalry spurs in a cavalry scout tradition called a spur ride with 3-71 CAV, adding to her accolades. She has since changed duty stations from Fort Drum, N.Y. to Fort Benning in Georgia and is currently enrolled in the Maneuver Captains Career Course there.