FORT BENNING, Ga. — Things are looking a small different on Sand Hill these days, and also it"s not just the coiled hair or the woman drill sergeants screaming at recruitment formations. Once the 198th Infantry Brigade invited its an initial gender-integrated class ago in February, months of research and planning had entered preparing among the Army"s critical all-male atmospheres for the come of the first women come enlist in the service"s largest military job-related specialty. "There hasn"t been any kind of light bulb moment of surprises," Capt. Seth Davis, a One terminal Unit Training firm commander, told army Times on April 30. "Female sex integration is new to the infantry branch, however it"s not new to the Army." Officials throughout the Army, all the method up to Sergeant major of the army Dan Dailey, had comparable things come say — that the military has been training men and women together and also deploying them together for decades, and this relocate is largely service as usual. However gender integration was a lengthy fight, and, in ~ every step, detractors within and also outside the Army suggested that ladies weren"t physically as much as the challenge. Some said that women"s distinct medical needs would disqualify them, or throwing them into such a macho culture would damages unit cohesion. "I"ve heard that story of, "Women have been in combat." That"s a true statement — all of this statements are, in and of themselves, true statements," Maj. John Spencer — a former an elderly enlisted infantryman, one-time Ranger institution instructor and also current strategy experienced at West Point"s modern-day War Institute — told military Times. "But the statements are false in the women have actually not been combined into these small units v the duty of direct action, which creates its very own subculture." Thirty-two ladies reported to the an initial integrated infantry OSUT, where they were assigned to 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment. On may 19, 18 of castle graduated, earning your blue cords.

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"These an easy trainees space going to have actually to create themselves and also be judged, just like everybody else," Spencer said. "They can not be upset they’re gift judged, because the males are going to be judged the same. Sometimes there’s one extra perception added onto the , however everybody’s being judged on whether they’re weak or not."


In the spotlight

The military officially lifted the ban on females serving in the infantry and also armor branches at the end of January 2016, and also by the end of the year had actually rounded up a handful of female noncommissioned officers and also newly trained infantry policemans to establish integrated chains that command based at fort Bragg, phibìc Carolina, and also Fort Hood, Texas.

All they’re missing now space the woman joes, thousands of whom are reserved to go through an easy training at fort Benning this year.


Women began enlisting as soon as the 11X infantry recruit MOS opened in April, and also their story went public.

Still, taking lessons native the 2015 integration that Ranger school, leader were cautious not to include too much pressure to the historical infantry OSUT class.

"Some that the things we’ve excellent in the past, we’ve carried a lot of attention," Dailey said. "I want to make sure we don’t disadvantage everyone by bringing that attention, and also we’ve done very good at the this time."


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Soldiers-in-training assigned come A Company, first Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, begin their an initial day that Infantry One terminal Unit cultivate on Sand Hill, fort Benning, Ga. The class that began Feb. 10 was the first to include female recruits.


Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright/Army

Officials speculated the recruiters could have called the males or ladies that they were headed to the first integrated cycle, but couldn’t specify a time when anyone to be briefed on the definition of your time at basic.

"At the in-brief, other than castle looking left and right, i did not mention that," said Lt. Col. Samuel Edwards, commander of first Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment. "I go not readjust that in-brief."

Starting in ~ the top


For as long as a year prior to the females arrived, female drill sergeants were getting comfortable at fort Benning, help recruit battalions smooth the end the last wrinkles while prepare themselves to command grunts.

Sgt. First Class Karen Carter, who joined the army as a cooking specialist prior to re-classing to intelligence analyst, arrived in January 2016.

"At first, I’m not going come lie, i was sort of surprised around getting orders because that drill — and also then finding the end come come here," she said. "I feel favor we’re the face of the Army. We’re the very first ones the they see as soon as they come into the Army, the military. So simply being below in OSUT world, the an honor."

Carter is just one of a grasp of woman drill sergeants, one assigned to each platoon, and she gained to cut her teeth with number of cycles that all-male platoons prior to women arrived in February.


The training is the same, she said, as is the way she treats them. All of the management make the a allude not to solitary out the women.

"I nothing think it’s a major change, but it’s miscellaneous historic," Carter said. "They don’t really talk about it. Surprisingly, they actually just want to train. They understand that they room the very first ones, yet they’re no concentrating ~ above it."

The only thing different can be the advice castle get about packing, she said.

"We’re going come the field, hey, you might want to take some wipes," she said. "But everything else, that the same."


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New soldiers conduct an easy rifle marksmanship maintain at fort Benning, Ga.

Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright/Army

Carter and also her fellow female drill sergeants were sent to fort Benning as component of the Army’s "Leaders First" initiative, to administer seasoned function models so the female recruits have women to look up to, but also so the the men obtain used to the idea of being led through women.

"The best way is setup the example," Carter said. "A the majority of them, they’re brand-new to every these ruck marches. Or running. Therefore me or among the other female drills acquiring out there, climbing ropes, running, doing all the ruck marches, we’re setting that example and also being that leader the they’re trying to look for."

It appears to be working, she said.

"I have actually a female that runs come anything," she said of one squad automatically weapon gunner, that stands at barely 5 feet tall. "She constantly wants come help, she always wants to train."

In she experience, she said, the women don’t require any more help than the males do, nor carry out they complain more.

"You know, ns really meant that, however I didn’t gain anything," she said. "They cry about their feet hurting, and it’s males and also females. The the very same thing. They miss out on home. Everybody it s okay homesick."

In the details

In the same method the Army’s other basic training posts are integrated, men and women on Sand Hill spend about 16 hours a day side by side.

Their only segregated time is in the barracks, from around 8 to 9 p.m. Every night, whereby they study and prepare for the following day before lights out.

At 4:30 a.m., they’re up again, through a few minutes to brush your teeth and get dressed before they’re earlier in formation.


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Infantry soldiers-in-training prepare to interact the the opposite force during a formation training exercise might 2. The women space the first new enlisted recruits come go v Infantry One terminal Unit Training.

Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright/Army

Leaders at ft Benning consulted an easy training units at ft Jackson, south Carolina, and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, which have actually been combined for decades. They likewise reached the end to the British and Canadian armies, Edwards said.

Early on, they realized they to be going to require a bigger barracks. The battalion fixed that by moving its two service providers to a brand-new building, v enough an are to clues a room because that women.

They additionally needed sufficient female drill sergeants so that there is always a mrs on employee duty, as well as security cameras record the hallways and entrances come the building.

The battalion started the cycle through 32 ladies out that 180 complete recruits. Each company set aside a female-only only or barracks room, and, to start, eight women were assigned to every platoon.

Both in the barracks and also out in the field, the differences are subtle, however they’re there.

Pink and purple to run shoes room lined increase on peak of wall surface lockers in the bays. There were a grasp of ponytails and braids mixed in top top April 30, as soon as the battalion headed the end to a variety for their an initial field training exercise.

Hair is typically the easiest way to call men and women personal in a combat uniform, but that would be deceptive for these recruits.

A grasp of the women decided to monitor the men’s regulations and shave your heads, leaders said. Lock look similar to the guys in your formation, until they speak.

"That would be the difference, however the training is the same," said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Sapp, a drill sergeant. "They’ve just been driving on. They lug what anyone else carries. They walk the same amount the mileage. Lock push, lock pull, lock sweat, castle bleed just like everybody else."


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Infantry soldiers-in-training command close quarters battle training at ft Benning, Ga. The Infantry One station Unit Training class graduating on might 19 was the first to include female recruits.

Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright/Army

For the culmination the their an easy skills training and also the first chance to put all of their new knowledge to the test, the soldiers spent a mainly dug right into foxholes in the middle of the Georgia woods, braving 90-degree temperatures, torrential downpours and a tornado on post.

There are portable restrooms ~ above the road for them come use, Davis said, and also on foot marches, the new rule is that males relieve themselves on the left next of the path and women ~ above the right.

"Push far sufficient into the trees the you can’t be seen, and also do what you need to do," Davis said.

At night, drill sergeants do the rounds to make certain everyone is in reality sleeping, if 30 percent come 50 percent of each platoon is top top watch.

"The way we train them throughout the day, the idea is to get them so exhausted that as soon as they’re executing the night training, all they want to do," Davis said. "I think we’re doing a good job, due to the fact that one the the biggest troubles we have is, once the drill sergeants space out patrolling in ~ night, is finding human being asleep."

Trial and also error

On height of gift the first gender combined cycle, the February 2017 class likewise was the an initial to have actually completed the Army’s new, gender-neutral job-related Physical evaluate Test.

The test attributes four events and is designed come level the playing field for assessing brand-new recruits. Recruits need to score a certain variety of points ~ above the events in stimulate to qualify for some of the higher-demand MOSs such as infantry.

Leaders universally host up the OPAT together putting new recruits on same physical footing on work one.

"There’s no separation in ~ all. In infantry, you nothing separate. You don’t say, ‘Okay, she a woman soldier, she deserve to do a little less,’" said first Sgt. Oleg Lerner, the senior enlisted soldier because that A Company, first Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.

It to be too shortly to tell even if it is OPAT impacted injury or attrition rates, leader said, yet the an initial integrated cycle’s statistics were about on par v those at fort Jackson and also Fort Leonard Wood, where about 10 percent of men and also 25 percent of ladies drop out.

"Just prefer the masculine population, you have actually some that come here an extremely physically fit, and some who do require a tiny extra help," Davis said. "You have remedial cultivate for when that happens, yet no different than the average male soldier, come tell friend the truth."

By beforehand May, the 32 women in first Battalion, 19th Infantry had dwindled come 18, Davis said.

"We have actually attrition rates, both male and female, the are historic with MOSs," Dailey said. "These are the highest possible attrition MOSs for the Army, and from talk to other armies, castle are greater for women."

Soldiers left fort Benning — for a range of reasons, indigenous family worries to injuries and simple failure to it is adapted to army life — in comparable numbers as they did as soon as the battalion was all-male.


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Infantry soldiers-in-training conduct your "Crossed Rifles Ceremony" after completing their culminating field training exercise on might 5 at fort Benning, Ga.

Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright/Army

"It"s on the men"

For the recruits, this is the only military they’ve ever known.

The an essential to a successful integration, Spencer said, is promoting a culture that sees ladies as capable — from the recruits who carry their preconceptions with them to the NCOs and also officers that are taking care of the readjust in real-time.

"My farming up as a 17-year-old child coming into the infantry, that form of society is pass on," Spencer said.

He deployed together a platoon leader throughout the Iraq invasion, he said, where two female medics to be attached to his all-male company.

"Soldiers no on patrol want to go speak to them," the said. "Not learning better, it to be like, ‘Don’t perform that. That’s a distraction.’ once it’s simply soldiers talking to soldiers."

He likewise offered an example of a mrs officer who didn’t desire to be watched talking to male officers, since of the rumors the spread when she did.

It’s lower-level leadership’s job to collection the example, Spencer said.

"There space some things that issue to us much more than other cultures, and also that has actually nothing to perform with gender," that said. "It’s weakness. The society does not like weakness. Weakness doesn’t have a sex bias."

Spencer, who has written lot of opinion pieces for publications consisting of the Los Angeles Times and also War top top the Rocks, has actually said the he once believed that infantry to be a masculine job and also should stay that way.

"I definitely lugged it in indigenous society. Us all go through things that form what us think the military’s going to be and what war’s going to be," that said. "I came right into the army that way, and it just got reinforced in a an extremely male-dominated, alpha — where strength is the greatest thing, and physical fitness is for this reason important since it has to be."

Experience changed his mind, that said.

"Some of that faded away," he said. "That no necessarily what mattered in achieve the mission."

Going through the repeal that "don’t ask, don’t tell" primed his opinion.

"I was in an company that stated that was going to ruin our culture, come let a homosexual right into that organization. And also it no happen," the said. "All of the points that they speak now around women — the evidence is currently that it didn’t, due to the fact that those things don’t matter when it involves kicking in the door."

Women graduating Ranger institution was an additional step toward sex parity, that said, because more than half of the soldiers who attempt the fail.

"That’s whereby some people’s feeling of identity starts to crumble, as soon as they see — castle came right into the company with thoughts about females gift weak, and every one of a suddenly they accomplish one who not, who has more status within this subculture than they do," that said.

And if it’s as much as the females to meet the standards, the said, that the Army’s project to pick the appropriate women and also to collection the conditions for them to succeed.

"The the opposite of resisting this is to litter the doors wide open and also look because that the check bias," the said, through failing to recruit the ideal women and also give lock the ideal support, climate saying, "I told girlfriend so," when years have actually gone by and only a handful room still infantrymen.

"The hurdles space not gone, and that’s why this integration needs to be very closely watched," that said.

It’s too shortly to tell even if it is the integration will certainly be successful, however Dailey said he has actually a future benchmark in mind.

"If you desire to asking what Sgt. Maj. Dailey’s meaning of success is — 20 years," he said. "When we have actually a battalion command sergeant significant and a battalion commander, female, top battalion. That’s what it absorbed the Canadian army. Twenty years. It is what that takes a male to do it."


Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other problems affecting organization members. Follow on Twitter
Meghann_MT


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