The Nevada Army National Guard has taken a big step with the inclusion of the first female combat soldiers in the state.
Pvt. 1st Class Brittany Sears and Spec. Cindy Robles have reported to Fallon’s 609th Engineer Co., as the first two combat-trained soldiers assigned to any Nevada Army National Guard unit. Both soldiers, who completed their basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) courses at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, recently returned from their first annual training at Camp Guernsey, a Joint Training Center run by the Wyoming Military Dept., that hosts all active-duty military branches, foreign military units, federal law enforcement agencies, state and local first responders and civilian enterprises.
Sears, who hails from a military family, and Robles, who became the first in her family in a generation to join the military, said their journey from basic to annual training has been successful and rewarding.
Being in an exciting, yet challenging field enticed Sears to become a combat soldier.
“I wanted to do something exciting,” said the 19-year-old Sears, a 2016 Galena High School graduate from Reno. “I didn’t want to be a 42 Alpha (administrative clerk) and sit behind the desk. Going out on patrols and doing demolition was a big selling point.”
Although her parents were reluctant for their daughter to become a combat-trained soldier and wanted her to enlist in something less dangerous, they acquiesced. Sears said her parents showed some nervousness about the combat role, and her mother wanted her to be an administrative specialist.
“I told them I wasn’t changing my mind,” Sears recalled.
Meanwhile, Robles, who graduated from Sunrise Mountain High School in Las Vegas, attended the University of Nevada, Reno where she joined ROTC. In 2014, the 22-year-old Robles enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard and attended her basic and AIT from January-May 2015.
Both soldiers said during basic and AIT, the drill sergeants, instructors and fellow soldiers treated them fairly and expected them to carry out their tasks.
“Everyone treats us the same,” Robles said, “and I never felt different being a woman.”
Sears said the hardest part about basic training came within the first three weeks of the 10-week course.
“The hardest part of adjusting was being away from home and doing a different experience,” she said. “After three weeks, it’s something you get used to.”
Robles kept focused and adopted an attitude in basic of anyone can do it.
Both soldiers attended basic and after graduation, entered AIT to specialize in combat engineering. Sears said her platoon at Fort Leonard Wood consisted of 62 soldiers, eight of them females.
In addition to her father and mother serving in the military, Sears had some training of her own. She belonged to the Galena Junior ROTC program and was a commander during her junior year and on staff her senior year. While she was not involved with ROTC, Sears was on the sidelines as a cheerleader for three years and selected as captain of the basketball cheerleaders during her senior year.
The real test, though, for both Sears and Robles came at the company’s annual training in Wyoming. That’s where their learning from AIT came into play and where they integrated with the rest of the unit.
Both give a thumbs up to their first annual training.
Readiness NCO (noncommissioned officer) Staff Sgt. Craig Kinison said annual training focuses on the commander’s mission essential task list (METL) that he feels is important to meet wartime objectives.
Sears met Robles on the first day of annual training.
“She came up to me and helped me a lot,” said Sears, adding she looked at Robles as “one tough female.”
A little apprehensive at first on the first day of annual training, Sears said she pushed through and succeeded. Robles agreed. She said the unit’s leaders pushed her more than what she expected including being up for 36 straight hours on a mission.
“It’s a challenge,” Robles emphasized. “I saw everyone doing their jobs, and I wanted to do my job.”
Both soldiers said their male counterparts with the 609th were very supportive, but the guardsmen expected Sears and Robles to do their tasks, which they did for two weeks and once they arrived in Fallon after the annual training.
In the future both soldiers said they want to keep improving themselves. Sears eventually wants to attend the Officers Basic Course, and Robles would complete the challenging Sappers course. Periodically, the Fallon unit conducts a pre-Sappers course to test soldiers on their mountaineering, water survival and patrolling skills.
The Lahontan Valley News followed one such course several years ago. The local training first began with hands-on instruction in tying knots and learning about the proper procedures of repelling, swimming across a portion of Lahontan Reservoir while towing a poncho-made raft and then finishing the course at the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Center near Bridgeport, Calif., with a week-long stay of refining their patrolling.
That short course would give both Sears and Robles a taste of the extended Sapper Leadership Course at Ft. Leonard Wood rivals that of the Rangers School. The pre-sapper course, though, whets their appetite for becoming tougher, more proficient, combat engineers.
Kinison said the elite Sappers training is a leadership course.
“It focuses on procedures and how to execute orders,” he added.
Both female soldiers said belonging to a combat unit is not for everyone, but with determination and a will to be as good as their other battle buddies, both Sears and Robles know they will be able to succeed not only with their first annual training but also with future training endeavors in Fallon and other parts of the United States.