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.”
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.