U.S. Army Capt. Amie Kemppainen made history recently by becoming the first female officer to take command of an infantry company in the Michigan Army National Guard, and among the first female infantry company commanders in the entire Army.
Kemppainen, who took command of B Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, in a March 2 ceremony, is a member of a growing sisterhood that has stepped forward to volunteer for infantry, armor and other direct-action jobs after the Pentagon opened up all combat-arms jobs to women just over three years ago.
"I didn't set out to become the first of anything," Kemppainen said in a March 5 Michigan National Guard news release. "I only want to look back and know that I made a difference, that I encouraged others to do more, and be more, and give more. The fact that I am opening doors for women is great, but I want my actions to be an example of what doing it right looks like, regardless of gender."
The Army has gone through a cultural shift since then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter reversed the regulation banning women from serving in direct-action combat-arms jobs in late December 2015. Carter's decision came just a few months after then-Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to successfully complete U.S. Army Ranger School.
Since then, 24 women have graduated the grueling 62-day infantry-leadership course known for pushing students to their mental and physical limits, according to Megan Reed, a spokeswoman for Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Kemppainen originally enlisted in the Michigan Guard in 1996 and deployed with the 1462nd Engineer Company to Iraq in 2004, the release states. She attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned in 2009, the release states.
Around the time of Carter's decision, Kemppainen was serving as a recruiting and retention officer responsible for leading the team that would recruit some of the first female infantry soldiers, the release states.
She decided to take on the challenge herself and volunteered for the Maneuver Captains Career Course, the release states.
Kemppainen is one of 93 women who have graduated from the course at Fort Benning, Georgia. It covers infantry, armor and aviation branches, Reed said.
Following graduation, Kemppainen served as a rifle platoon leader for 15 months, as well as the executive officer for the infantry company, the release states.
"In these roles, Capt. Kemppainen walked the same miles, chewed the same dirt, and endured the same hardships as every other member of the Black Knight Company, all while gaining the critical perspective into infantry brotherhood," Lt. Col. Joseph Cannon, commander of 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, said in the release. "She understands the tough love between 'grunts,' and she accrued the crusty mortar which coheres infantrymen together. By rolling up her sleeves, getting into the trenches and working hard, she earned the respect required as an infantry leader and the trust of the men."
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