New infantry grad state Guard pioneer
Sergeant is first woman to finish course
A soldier fulfilled her nearly decade-long dream when she graduated from an Arkansas National Guard infantry training course Wednesday, becoming the first woman to do so in the state Guard’s history.
Staff Sgt. Tasheenia Wallace was one of 22 people who completed the Infantry Transition Course, a two-week program at the Robinson Maneuver Training Center in North Little Rock, Guard spokesman Maj. Will Phillips said.
The course is offered to soldiers who are already serving and want to change their occupational specialty to the infantry, according to a news release.
Wallace was one of two women to take the course and the only one to graduate, the release said.
With this training, Wallace can command a squad, usually consisting of seven to 10 soldiers, Phillips said. Squads are often deployed across Arkansas to assist in emergencies and natural disasters, like this spring’s flooding, he said.
“What we love to do is help our neighbors,” Phillips said.
The Department of Defense began allowing women to serve in combat arms positions, like the infantry, in January 2013.
But Wallace envisioned herself in such a role long before then.
In 2008, Wallace deployed with an infantry unit and “enjoyed a lot of the stuff that they did and wanted to do it,” she said in a video posted online by the state Guard. Though it wasn’t an option for her at the time, the idea stuck with her, she said.
“I joined the Guard because I wanted to be someone who could defend our country. I didn’t do it just because [of] the title of being a
soldier, but because I want to lead,” she said. “And so being on the front line was something I’ve always wanted to do.”
During the training
course, Wallace and others trekked through woods carrying bulky equipment and weapons, silently moving through brush in stifling summer heat.
“It’s definitely not a walk in the park,” Wallace said.
What kept her going during the toughest moments were thoughts of her children, she said.
“They motivate me to do everything that I’ve done so far. My career is based on them,” she said.
“Coming through this school just made me realize that I am mentally and physically tough
enough to do a lot more than I think I can,” she added.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rich Megaloff noted Wallace’s achievement in the video, saying she has embedded herself in Arkansas National Guard history as the first woman to finish the program.
“But bottom line is, she wanted to come to this course for all the right reasons,” Megaloff said. “She wanted to challenge herself.”
Wallace now holds four different occupational specialties: administration, logistics, chemicals and infantry.