Boise woman becomes first female tank crew member in U.S.

BOISE -- A Boise woman made history this week as the first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the U.S. Army's M1 Armor Crewman School this week.

Sgt. 1st Class Erin Smith of the Idaho Army National Guard passed the 19 Kilo Army Military Occupational Skill curriculum June 25. Members of M1 armor crews use M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams tanks to destroy enemy targets, according to the Idaho National Guard.

Women have historically been blocked from serving in combat roles, including as tank crew members. But in December 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all military positions, including infantry and armor jobs, would be opened to any women who meet the standards for the positions. 

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"I was interested in the idea of being an Army tanker long before talk about integration so when the opportunity came up I decided to go for it," Smith said in a statement.  "It was intimidating at first—the fear of failure or not being good enough—but it's been an awesome experience."

Smith enlisted in the Idaho Army National Guard in 2001 as a combat medic, deploying to Bosnia in 2002 with Boise's 183rd Aviation Battalion. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq with the Idaho National Guard's 116th Brigade Combat Team.

More than 280,000 women have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last ten years.

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According to the Idaho Army National Guard, 9k armor crewmen must be able to drive an Abrams tank over varied terrain, use communications equipment,  load and fire the tank's weaponry, read maps and know how to operate the vehicle's targeting acquisition system.

Idaho Army National Guard leaders say they hope soldiers like Smith act as an inspiration to other women hoping to serve in combat roles.

"Any doubts I had about not being accepted or being treated different I no longer have. My peers, the leadership and instructors throughout the training have all been extremely supportive," Smith said in a statement.  "I would encourage any interested female to talk with her leadership and pursue being a 19K."


Copyright 2016 KTVB


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