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    History is made with First Female Infantry Company Commander

    Passing the Guidon

    Photo By Lt. Col. John Hall | Capt. Amie Kemppainen takes command of Company B, 3rd Battlion, 126th Infantry at a...... read more read more



    Story by Lt. Col. John Hall 

    Michigan National Guard

    LANSING, Mich. – History was made this week when Capt. Amie Kemppainen took command of B Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, an infantry command with a historic lineage to include the Battles of Bull Run, Manassas and Gettysburg in the Civil War; the battle of the Marne and Argonne Forest in World War 1; New Guinea and Luzon in World War 2, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan today in the 21st Century.

    When the blue infantry guidon was passed to her in the assumption of command ceremony, this made Kemppainen the first female infantry commander in the history of the Michigan National Guard and one of the first female infantry company commanders in the United States Army.

    In 2016 restrictions on combat arms service for females was lifted. The U.S. Army instituted a policy of “leaders first” to build a cadre of female officers before recruiting enlisted female infantrymen.

    At the time of this policy development, Capt. Kemppainen was serving in the 63 Troop Command and would have been responsible for commanding the team who would recruit these first female infantrymen. She felt it was inappropriate to sell the “infantry” to candidate females without her own experience or perspective, so she raised her hand and volunteered to be the first.

    She began her experience in the infantry by working as a plans officer on the battalion staff in order to become acquainted with infantry operations. She knew she hadn’t served in the core infantry positions and needed to gain the relevant experience and perspective necessary to earn the respect of these Soldiers. So, she attended the Maneuver Captains Career Course, the first female in the Michigan National Guard to do so, and was among the first in the U.S. Army to graduate from this training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and set a high standard for those to follow her.

    Following graduation, she continued to accumulate the rated time in an 11A (infantry officer) position required to pin the coveted crossed rifles on her collar. She went on to serve as a rifle platoon leader for 15 months where she led her light infantry platoon through significant training events, to include platoon live fire training lanes at Michigan’s Northern Strike exercise. Following her platoon time, she served as the executive officer for the infantry company. Each of these assignments are considered as critical and formative roles infantry officers must succeed at in order to be effective Infantry commanders.

    “In these roles, Capt. Kemppainen walked the same miles, chewed the same dirt, and endured the same hardships as every other member of the Black Knight Company, all while gaining the critical perspective into infantry brotherhood,” stated 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment Commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Cannon. “She understands the tough love between 'grunts' and she accrued the crusty mortar which coheres infantrymen together. By rolling up her sleeves, getting into the trenches and working hard, she earned the respect required as an Infantry leader and the trust of the men.

    Cannon continued by stating, “The very nature of infantry requires strong leadership. Infantrymen are required to close with and destroy their enemy. The Soldiers who execute this duty are some of the hardest and most determined Soldiers in the Army. It is believed that to lead such Soldiers, an infantry commander must be the best. Infantry leaders must demonstrate selfless service, they must show humility, and they must share in the hardships endured by those they lead."

    This is just what Kemppainen, a veteran with over 15 years-service on active duty and with the Michigan National Guard, has done. She first enlisted in the Michigan National Guard in 1996 as a records specialist in the 507th Engineer Battalion. She deployed with the 1462nd Engineer Company to Iraq in 2004 as an 88M and continued serving with the unit until attending OCS in 2009 where she was commissioned through the Alabama Military Academy. She was originally commissioned as a logistics officer assigned to the 1-126 Cavalry Squadron serving as a platoon leader, executive officer and then OIC. She then commanded A Company, Recruiting and Retention Battalion for two years before deciding to take on the challenge of training to be an infantry officer and now company commander.

    “She is taking command because she earned it and deserves it. I am also proud of the men of Bravo Company, and what they have done as far as changing the culture in the infantry. It encourages me to see this, that some day my own 9-year-old daughter can become an infantryman, can become a Ranger, can become whatever she wants to become because of what women like Capt. Amie Kemppainen have done,” stated Col. Robert Howard, Commander of the 63rd Troop Command.

    “I grew up in the Infantry and I thought this day would never come. It is very cool, very awesome. I am proud to be a part of it, a part of her development and to get us to where we are today. What you see here is well deserved and well earned,” concluded Howard.

    Relinquishing command is Capt. Andrew Turner who originally enlisted in the Michigan National Guard as a medic. He deployed with the 182nd Field Artillery Regiment in 2005, continuing to serve with the unit throughout his enlistment. He commissioned from ROTC at the University of Michigan in 2011 where he was assigned to the 1-126 Cavalry as an armor officer. He has served as platoon leader, executive officer, and company commander. He commanded Company B, 3-126 through the transition from cavalry to infantry in 2016, completing a branch transfer to infantry upon completion of the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course.

    “I didn’t set out to become the first of anything,” Kemppainen said. “I only want to look back and know that I made a difference, that I encouraged others to do more, and be more, and give more. The fact that I am opening doors for women is great, but I want my actions to be an example of what doing it right looks like – regardless of gender.”

    “I was looking at my seven-year-old daughter’s journal from school a few days ago, and at the bottom of the page in a note she wrote, ‘You can be an infantry Soldier. They don’t think you can, but I know you can. You do the hard work. I believe in you!’ There were all of these statements written on the page and I thought, you know, this is exactly the reason that I am doing what I am doing - because she sees it. So my reason in the beginning was to stand behind something the brigade encouraged me to do, but as I worked through it, it became about a little girl who was watching, who understood much more than I thought she did,” concluded Kemppainen, who appreciates that her daughter Avarie is her biggest champion.



    Date Taken: 03.05.2019
    Date Posted: 03.05.2019 01:36
    Story ID: 312854
    Location: WYOMING, MI, US 
    Hometown: DEWITT, MI, US
    Hometown: GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US
    Hometown: LANSING, MI, US

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