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    Pa. Army National Guard welcomes first female infantry recruit

    Pa. Army National Guard welcomes first female infantry recruit

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler | Pfc. Tianna Ford, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, 56th...... read more read more

    FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA, UNITED STATES

    08.05.2021

    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler 

    Joint Force Headquarters - Pennsylvania National Guard

    FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Army National Guard recently welcomed its first female infantry recruit into its ranks.

    Pfc. Tianna Ford graduated from initial entry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in June, earning the 11B military occupational specialty and the coveted blue infantry shoulder cord.

    “I chose infantry because I wanted a challenge,” said Ford. “Being the first female to enlist in the infantry in the PA Guard isn’t what is important to me about this job. My family is proud of me, and I want to be in the infantry. I perform the same work as everyone else.”

    Ford, 22, said IET was very physically demanding, and that made her graduation all the more special.

    “When I had my blue cord pinned on by my drill sergeant, that was a proud moment that I had been working hard for, for six months,” she said. “I did it – and I earned it – and no one can say that I did not. I did everything that I was supposed to, I did everything the males did, and that final presentation was an amazing moment.”

    Ford is now a member of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

    While Ford was the first female Pa. National Guard Soldier to graduate from infantry IET, she was not the first female infantry Soldier in the Pa. Guard. There were already three female infantry officers and four female infantry noncommissioned officers in the Pa. Guard.

    The four NCOs reclassified from other jobs to infantry back in September 2016.

    Staff Sgt. Bonnie Hopwood, a squad leader for Charlie Co., 1-111th Infantry Regiment, was among them. Hopwood, a Philadelphia native, was a Stryker mechanic prior to reclassifying to Infantry.

    “I remember receiving a phone call from an officer from another unit letting me know the U.S. Army was removing the restriction, and I was at the armory the next day to sign up,” she said. “But, I was told that there needed to be training plans, and more details before I was able to start planning to go to the transition school. In the end, it all worked out thanks to the support of the leaders around me.”

    Because of concerns of standards being lowered for female Soldiers, Hopwood said the infantry transition class went above the standards.

    “It wasn’t whether you were male or female, young or old – it was whether you could do this job or you cannot,” she said.

    That’s a sentiment Hopwood has continued to instill in her mentoring and leadership to Soldiers in Charlie Company.

    “My Soldiers understand that my first job is taking care of Soldiers,” she said. “I train, I guide, and I shield them from things that they do not need to worry about. I mentor them with Soldier issues, Army issues, and sometimes life issues.”

    On the officer side, 2nd Lt. Meredith Lynn, a platoon leader for Charlie Company, was among the first female infantry officers in the Pa. Guard. She chose infantry when selecting her career branch in Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

    “The Army just started letting female Soldiers branch combat arms when I was deciding what my number one choice was,” said Lynn, a Quakertown, Pa., native. “After all the additional training and work that I had put forth, I just decided I’d rather branch something that will always challenge me and make me a better leader.”

    Lynn said her decision to choose infantry was inspired by her mother, even though her mother actually wanted Lynn to join the Peace Corps.

    “My mom was a single mother, and we didn’t always have it the easiest growing up, but she always provided for her children,” Lynn said. “She is the hardest worker that I know, and she taught me that hard-work yield results.”

    The idea to have female officers and NCOs in place before new female Soldiers arrive at infantry units is part of the Army’s Leaders First Policy. This way, there are women to serve as role models as well as mentors for new female Soldiers in the units.

    The Pa. National Guard has been working to support the Leaders First Policy since infantry jobs were opened to women in 2016, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jesse Ferrelli, enlisted branch chief for the Pa. National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters.

    “The Leaders First Policy is the method to ensure that the units are at a point that we can integrate all genders into combat arms, or previous units that were closed because the military occupational specialties that required gender-specific – which the U.S. Army did away with,” Ferrelli said.

    For a unit to be authorized female Soldiers to attend IET as an infantry Soldier, they were required to meet specific criteria, including command climate surveys, Soldier briefs, gender integration training and sexual harassment/assault response training.

    Charlie Co., 1-111th Infantry Regiment was the first the Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit to pass the verification for the Leaders First Policy.

    Col. Laura McHugh, the Pennsylvania National Guard’s deputy adjutant general-Army, said she is very proud of the women who chose to join combat arms MOSs as well as all the other women in the Pa. Guard who continue to do great things every day.

    “I am excited and tremendously proud of the direction the Army is headed as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion,” McHugh said. “As we approach August 26, Women’s Equality Day, I am extremely proud of the countless women who strive, daily, to succeed in ways others before us were not permitted. The courage and tenacity of those female leaders that served before us is what helped to pave a path for all to succeed, regardless of gender.

    “As the Army prepares for the future, it is important that every individual has the same opportunity to realize their true potential,” McHugh added. “This integration now proves that, in the PA Army National Guard, the only limitation you have is you.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 08.05.2021
    Date Posted: 08.05.2021 07:46
    Story ID: 402037
    Location: FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA, US 
    Hometown: PHILADELPHIA, PA, US
    Hometown: QUAKERTOWN, PA, US

    Web Views: 373
    Downloads: 0

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