183rd RTI graduates 1st female infantry Soldiers

National Guard Soldiers from across the country maneuver through the culminating exercise of the 11B Infantry Transition Course May 16, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Approximately 35 junior Soldiers and noncommissioned officers made it to the final phase of the course which is taught by cadre assigned to 1st Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. This is the first time female Soldiers have been enrolled in the course. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — For the first time in the history of the Virginia National Guard’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, women were among the graduates of the 11B Infantry Transition Course. Five female Soldiers were among 34 U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers who earned their blue cord May 18, 2019, after two grueling weeks of training at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

“Women or men, they’re all Soldiers,” said Staff Sgt. John Fracker, one of the course instructors. “Soldiers want to be trained and we owe it all Soldiers to provide them with the most realistic training we can.”

National Guard Soldiers from across the country maneuver through the culminating exercise of the 11B Infantry Transition Course May 16, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

In 2016, combat arms career fields opened to women and in the years since, several notable firsts have happened across the force, from the first female Ranger School graduates to Virginia’s own first female infantry officer who completed training earlier this year at Fort Benning, Georgia. The five women who graduated from the Infantry Transition Course will be among the first female infantry Soldiers in their respective states.

“I will be the third female [11B] in the Wisconsin National Guard,” said Sgt. Treasure Bergman, one of the women to earn her blue cord on graduation day. She always knew she wanted to join the Army, ever since grade school when she watched the twin towers fall in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. She almost joined right after high school, but decided to take a year off first and then life happened. She went to school and had a baby.

“That feeling of wanting to be in the military never went away,” Bergman said. She lost 40 pounds in order to make it into the military and joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 2015 as a 92G Culinary Specialist. Working as a 92G wasn’t a great fit for Bergman, and as soon as she could, she switched career fields. “I just envisioned this as Army when I wanted to join the Army,” she said of the infantry. “You can’t get any more Army than the infantry.”

Staff Sgt. Thomas Seth Riggs, from the California National Guard, said he ended up in an 11B slot after leaving active duty and joining the National Guard. It was a career field that always interested him and one that allowed him to train close to his home in Los Angelos.

“It’s interesting to see [women] in the infantry,” Riggs said. “I’ve never been in the infantry so I have no opinion on it, but we’ve got some hard-charging women here, so it’s not even about the gender, it’s about if you can do it or you can’t, and there are guys here who are punching out, so I’ve got nothing but respect for the people who are making it through all of this.”

The course combined MOS transition students at both the junior Soldier and NCO level and all were required to meet the tough standards set by the RTI.

“What we do here is provide the best, toughest and most realistic training we can in order to provide Soldiers the training they deserve,” Fracker explained. He said the students came from 17 states to attend the course, each with their own background story and experience. “Transition Soldiers from various MOSs in two weeks is about as challenging as it comes. You combine this with the Army Physical Fitness Test, the High Physical Demands Tasks, the Occupational Physical Assessment Test and all the requisite infantry tasks and leadership evaluations required to graduate, and it’s a grueling course for all the Soldiers.”

Over their two weeks at Fort Pickett, the Soldiers faced a variety of challenges, mental and physical.

Infantry instructors at the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute conduct an after action review during 11B Infantry Transition Course May 16, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

“The training has been going great,” said Pfc. Dane Pedersen, a Virginia National Guard Soldier. “The instructors have been giving us a lot of valuable knowledge and they’re critical on certain things, but in a good way. They’re not smashing people down and they’re very constructive.”

At the graduation ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Irving N. Reed, 183rd RTI command sergeant major, was the first to address the students.

“You have a lot of responsibilities, so you have to understand, you have to know your job,” Reed said. “You’ve only had two weeks training, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Continue to learn, continue to build upon the foundation that these instructors laid forth these past two weeks.”

Next, Col. Todd Hubbard, commander of the 183rd RTI, addressed the students, congratulating them on their accomplishment and encouraging them to be proud of themselves.

“If you look around, there’s not a lot of people who do this,” Hubbard said. “I would like to thank you for who you are. Out of our whole population, you’re one of the few who has chosen to serve our country.”

Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, Assistant Adjutant General for the Virginia Army National Guard, was the last to address the graduates. He told them he was proud of them and that the infantry is all about people, especially for those in leadership roles. He encouraged the students to take care of their people and to “make sure your leadership is about serving others.”

“This is one of the toughest courses we have at the RTI, and you did it and you did it very well,” Flora said. He also recognized the female students, saying, “You all set the standards and we would love for you all to go out there and spread the word and encourage other females to join the infantry. There’s plenty of room for our female colleagues to come and join us.”

Following the presentation of their graduation certificates, the new infantry Soldiers filed outside where Bergman led them in the reciting the Infantryman’s Creed. Then, their family members, friends and instructors came forward to attach their new blue cords to their uniforms.

“We train Soldiers at 1-183rd RTI, not women or men, just Soldiers,” Fracker said.

U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve Soldiers graduate and receive their blue cords following successful completion of the 11B Infantry Transition Course May 18, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Cadre assigned to 1st Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute taught the two week course, which included female Soldiers for the first time. Thirty-four students earned their blue cords, including five women. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)


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