This article by Ryan Pickrell was originally published by Business Insider.
A Montana National Guard soldier just became the first woman to graduate from the US Army’s sniper course at Fort Benning in Georgia, the Montana National Guard said in a statement Monday.
A Guard spokesperson told Insider that it is not clear whether the soldier, who requested that the Army not disclose her name for privacy reasons, is the Army’s first female sniper, but she is the first female soldier to become sniper-qualified since the sniper course was created.
The US Army sniper course is a seven-week program that trains selected soldiers in sniper techniques, from advanced marksmanship, delivering long-range precision fire, to fieldcraft, such as camouflage and concealed movement. The course is challenging and has a high attrition rate.
The soldier enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard last December. Afterward, she was sent to Fort Benning to participate in a 22-week infantry training course that includes the Army basic training program, as well as more advanced infantry skills.
Related: Female college student first to graduate from Army’s ‘toughest’ special operations course
During that course, she demonstrated “superior performance,” including qualifying as an expert shooter, and was recommended for participation in the sniper course by her trainers and chain of command, the Guard said.
Maj. Gen. J. Peter Hronek, the Adjutant General for Montana, said in a statement that the soldier volunteered several times before she could take part in the course, which she started in September.
The soldier graduated from the Army sniper course on Nov. 5, becoming the first female soldier in history to do so.
Hronek said in a statement that “we are extremely proud of this Soldier’s achievement and recognize that this is a milestone for not only Montana, but the entire National Guard and Army.”
Capt. David Wright, battalion commander at the Army Sniper School, explained in a statement that the soldier met every standard required to graduate. “We wish her luck as she heads back to her unit as a US Army Sniper Course qualified sniper,” he said.
Related: SEAL breaks down first woman’s journey into Naval Special Warfare
“In past years, schools like this have been closed to women,” Montana Army National Guard spokesperson Maj. Ryan Finnegan told local Montana outlet KGVO. “It was only in the last few years that they’ve had the opportunity to attend.”
He said that in many different courses, not just the sniper course, “women are continuing to attend, and they’re continuing to succeed in ever-increasing numbers.”
The first female service member to graduate from a US military sniper school was also a National Guard soldier, but with the Illinois National Guard. Jennifer Weitekamp, then Jennifer Donaldson, graduated from a pilot counter-sniper school in April 2001, becoming the first female sniper in the US military.
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Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Capt. Justin Wright
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