Serving as a mechanic for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is no longer closed to women after five graduated today for the combat support role in a ceremony at Fort Benning.
"I can't believe I finished it," Pvt. Christian Haws said after the 10 a.m. ceremony for the 3rd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment at Harmony Church. "I'm just so motivated to get to my unit and do my best. I never thought this day would come with so many challenges that we faced to get to this day."
Joining Haws for the historic graduation on post were Pvts. Melissa Allen, Amanda Layman, Christy Bailey and Taylor Robbins. They and more than 30 other male soldiers finished the 14-week course which prepares them to work on the 36-ton vehicle during training or while under fire in a war zone.
The mechanic position was one of 237,000 military positions opened by the former secretary of defense in January. Soldiers who graduate from the course are able to diagnose and troubleshoot any malfunctions on the Bradley. They also are able to work on the vehicle's suspension system, fire extinguisher and suppression systems and mounted armament.
Haws, 18, of Harlem, New York, noted the pressure all the women soldiers faced to get through the course. "You always have to be better than the males all the time," she said. "Everybody is looking up to you."
From the first day of the class, she said the women came together to support one another. "It's really why each and everyone is here today because we pushed each other," Haws said.
Robbins, 20, of myrtle, Miss, said she feels like part of the family after graduating. She's excited to lead the way and cut the path for other women to follow.
Robbins said she was inspired by her father who served as a tanker in the Army in the mid 1970s.
"I had planned on joining some type of branch of the military then my dad was in the Army so I decided to follow his path," she said.