98th Training Division Drill Sergeants Become First Few Female Infantry School Graduates


Two female drill sergeants from the 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training) earned their blue shoulder cords and made history by becoming the first two female Army Reserve Soldiers to complete Infantry School at Camp Shelby, Miss.

The Soldiers, Sgt. Michelle Alvarado and Sgt. Candice Beebe, both drill sergeants with 3rd Battalion, 485th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET), 108th Training Command (IET), completed the two-week course this past summer.

Even though the Army lifted the ban on women serving in the Infantry and Armor Branches in 2016, neither Army Reserve Soldier expected the opportunity to come so soon.

Allowing Drill Sergeants to join U.S. Army Cadet Command in training Cadets allows Cadets the opportunity to see “what’s right” and gives civilians during the summer training the opportunity to see if the military is for them before actually joining.

“Infantry School just kind of happened,” said Beebe, a Burlington, Wis., native. Under reformation, her unit had become part of an Infantry battalion in charge of instructing Infantry One Station Unit Training. Therefore, as a drill sergeant in the unit, she needed to make a choice: go to Infantry School or transfer to another unit. Beebe said it didn’t take long for her to make a decision.

“I said, ‘You know, I’ll go to Infantry School.’ I had no idea what that meant for me, but it was something that interested me…It was something that I wanted to explore. So I went…I was nervous – but I went.”

Alvarado, a Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, native, may not have expected to go to school this summer either, but she had been making sure she was ready for the opportunity in hopes that it would arrive.

“I was making sure I was squared away for that particular moment. It was a very big responsibility, but I knew from the first moment that I could make it,” said the drill sergeant, knowing she was the first Army Reserve female Soldier to attend the school.

Beebe, who attended the school shortly after Alvarado, met up with her prior to school to get advice. Alvarado offered some tips and laid out what to expect to her fellow drill sergeant. After their chat, Beebe said she could see why Alvarado had been so successful and knew she had big steps to follow.

“She sets the standard, and sets it high. We need more mentors like her.”

Once at the school, Beebe’s first impression of Alvarado’s professionalism was reinforced even more.

“She definitely left a lasting impression at the Infantry School, and I could see the type of woman that she is. I am proud to serve with someone like that.”

Naturally, as drill sergeants, both Army Reserve Soldiers had powerful personalities and personal drive. Their military training helped them with knowledge and experience and physical fitness. However, the base of both drill sergeants’ strength and determination began with their mothers.

“My mom used to tell me that words go with the wind. Actions speak for themselves,” said Alvarado who is the first female in her family to serve in the military.

Beebe, on the other hand, was quite familiar with the military as a child since both parents and some uncles had all served.

“My mother would always talk about the Navy, and it would always sound so glorious.”

As a result, she just knew she would always serve and shipped off to Army Basic Combat Training within a week of graduating from high school.

Though both Soldiers were drill sergeants who had served on the trail a number of times, Infantry School was something different entirely as they were now on the receiving end of training rather than the instructing side. Days were long and filled with countless hours of ruck marches and Infantry tasks. Near the end of the course and after already covering over 120 miles on foot, the final big obligation tested the drill sergeants mentally and physically.

“I hate saying this, but the 12-mile ruck march was no joke. It was day 10. We were all beat by then. If your feet weren’t destroyed by the time we started that 12-miler, they were definitely wrecked by the end of it,” said Beebe. As a drill sergeant, the Soldiers were used to miles on the road. So the challenge in the final ruck march with a 45-pound ruck sack that was followed up with a series of high-intensity tasks such as carrying a causality and climbing a wall, surprised Beebe.

“We could all go out and do a 12-mile ruck with weight on our backs, but after rucking for 10 days and then that, it got you mentally…which honestly, I did not expect.”

Challenges were not something that typically beat these Soldiers though. In fact, the harder things got, the more they seemed to push to succeed.

“I crave new paths and missions all the time…[so this] motivated me to hunger for more,” said Alvarado who was trying to prove more to herself than others. Beebe had a similar reaction to the role reversal of now being the trainee.

“We got smoked there. I am a drill sergeant and I haven’t been smoked in a minute. So I was like, ‘this is new, but I’m into it. Let’s do this!’”

That type of passion is necessary to excel, said Alvarado who encourages other Soldiers, both male and female, to attend the school. For the females who want to attend, she reminds them that “eyes are on you.” That means, be ready, be confident, and be disciplined.

“You need to be determined, physically fit, and exceed the standards – always…Make your actions speak.”

Beebe agrees with Alvarado’s stance on always striving to exceed the standards and set the example. She continued that those goals are not just for the female Soldiers though. They should be for all Army Reserve Soldiers.

“It’s not even about the whole female thing. We can all do anything we put our minds to… we are all capable of doing it.”

Being capable and prepared doesn’t mean it will be easy. Both drill sergeants said they, and their fellow male classmates, had moments of stress. That’s when Soldier resiliency and personal courage kick in, said Alvarado who finished in the top 10 percent of her class.

“You prove to them, and yourself, that you are able to not only meet the standard, but to exceed the standard. It’s attainable, but you need to have discipline and commitment to what you want to do.”

Knowing what you want and preparing to achieve those goals is the key to success, according to Beebe. Readiness, both physical and mental, gives Soldiers a path to success by breaking down walls that could otherwise hold them back, according to Beebe.

“You can get stuck in those walls, and there’s no freedom inside of there. Freedom is knowing that you are capable of doing anything you can create for yourself.”

“Once someone is on the path and prepared for it, there is no stopping them whether or not they are male or female,” said Beebe.

“Once you understand what freedom truly means, you can do anything.”


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