CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The first Riverine Combat Skills Course (RCS) class to include females graduated during a ceremony at Center for Security Forces Learning Site Camp Lejeune (CSFLSCL) Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 26.
The four females started the five-week course along with 56 males Sept. 23 to be trained and evaluated on combat skills needed to perform their duties as a Riverine Sailor.
They were trained on weapon fundamentals and equipment, land navigation, offensive and defensive patrolling, and communications.
Chief Engineman Patricia Cooper, Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Brittney Hellwig, Master-at-Arms Seaman Brianna Tran, and Master-at-Arms Seaman Angela Evans all agreed that RCS was a challenging course, but refused to let the fact that they were the first females modify their training in any way.
"It's crossed all of our minds," said Tran, a student from Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MSRON) 2. "We've discussed it, but it's something that we tried to keep out of our heads so we can keep our focus on the course. It's better to keep our focus here. Even the guys have been very supportive and we haven't had any issues with them thinking we couldn't do it."
Before the Riverine Forces and Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces (MESF) merged into the Coastal Riverine Force (CORIVFOR) in June, the Riverine community was only composed of male Sailors. Because MESF was an integrated force, the merger introduced females to the Riverine working environment and they became eligible for Riverine training.
"I'm excited to have females in the class," said Lt. Michael A. Diehl, CSFLSCL site director. "The way we view it at the school house is that they are all students. Anyone who comes here with the right attitude, ready to learn, ready to take on what we teach, to accept the mission and to succeed and help their fellow Sailor, in my book I'll take any student like that any day of the week."
The course itself did not need any changes to include females to participate, but according to Diehl the course managers followed proper Navy policies to ensure that the course followed the guidelines for an integrated training environment.
"The class itself is the same," said Lt. j.g. Joshua Cohen, a student from Coastal Riverine Squadron 4. "The curriculum didn't change at all and the females were asked to do the exact same things as the males were. They did it all just as well, if not better, than any of us. I never doubted them at any point."
"The skills are not mutually exclusive to a male-only environment," said Diehl. "The females coming on board is good. Now that we're seeing a much larger force as logistical support, there is no reason to not include women."
Upon graduation, the students either reported back to their commands, continued with further training or prepared to deploy.
"I consider it an honor to have been here and to graduate," said Tran. "I never expected to be presented with this type of an opportunity, especially this early in my naval career, but after here I'll go on my first deployment and I'm really excited about it."
CORIVFOR is a component of NECC and provides flexible responsive maritime security forces capable of performing high-level security. NECC is a command element and force provider for integrated maritime expeditionary missions, serving as a single functional command for the Navy's expeditionary forces.