In­fantry grad state Guard pioneer

Sergeant is first woman in Arkansas unit to fin­ish course

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - EMMA PETTIT

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 twoweek 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 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.

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