At Fort Benning, Georgia, the Army for the first time Thursday held a graduation for the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course that included female Soldiers among the graduates.
“It’s a great day,” said Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, commanding general of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, during a press conference in advance of the graduation. “You’re going to see today 65 great armor lieutenants walk across the stage as graduates of the ABOLC.”
Of the 65 graduates, Wesley said, 13 are female officers. All had met the objective criteria that define the role of a combat leader, he said. The Army’s decision to open the course up to women, he believes, will have the overall effect of strengthening the Army through diversity.
“It’s broadened the pool from which we draw to promote to platoon leaders in the armor branch because we’ve extended the opportunity to be armor leaders to women in the Army,” he said. “So we have a much broader pool of talent, all normalized, based on the standards that we have emplaced on armor leaders.”
The ABOLC is attended by second lieutenants who are new to the Army. The 19-week, three-phase course provides commanders in the field with armor or cavalry platoon leaders trained in the fundamentals of tank and reconnaissance platoon weapon systems and capabilities, combined-arms maneuver and area security tactics.
Staff Sgt. George M. Baker, an ABOLC cadre member, said that initially there was skepticism among trainers about how the women would perform in the course. That skepticism, he said, soon vanished.
“As soon as they started performing to those same standards — because we didn’t change anything — and they performed to those same standards, they met and exceeded those standards,” Baker said. “It solidified that they have a place here.”
Fellow ABOLC instructor, Staff Sgt. William J. Hare, said that, after pushing through the latest iteration of ABOLC, he wouldn’t have a problem serving as a Soldier under any the women he was charged with instructing.
“They have been astronomical. They blew us away during our field training exercises” Hare said. “Their ability to plan and execute on the fly and execute that plan in a clear and concise manner and communicate plan changes on the go was amazing.”