HARTFORD, Conn. - 2nd Lt. Jocelyn Coutant, a platoon leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, is the first female Connecticut National Guard infantry officer.
Coutant stuck out among her peers at Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course, which she attended Sept. 20 to March 4, but not because of her gender.
“I did not realize that I would be going to school with people that were much younger than I was,” said Coutant, who is turning 33 soon. “They are all straight out of college. We had a couple of seasoned people like me but a lot more brand new lieutenants that had never been enlisted. I think understanding my role in that regard was harder than just being a female in a mostly male school.”
Coutant said she received a few jokes based on her age but all in good fun. Because of her experience as an enlisted Soldier, she was able to mentor her fellow new lieutenants by advising them to treat their enlisted Soldiers well and rely on them as the experts in their field.
“As a brand-new lieutenant going into a new branch, I know the basics of what I was taught in school. But there is so much more that I am going to need to know that, I am going to need to rely on my NCOs for,” said Coutant, who was formerly a sergeant in an aviation unit. “I think it is a big thing that they need to realize. Especially coming out of college, you think you are at the top of the world, but you need to make sure that you are respecting people and caring for all of your Soldiers.”
She also impressed upon her more junior peers the seriousness of their new jobs. “You are now in charge of people’s lives, and that is a huge deal,” said Coutant. “You have to grow up because a lot of people are relying on you.”
Coutant rarely interacted with the other six female officers attending IBOLC while she did. Though nearly all her team members were male, she experienced the same bonding phenomenon common in all Army schools.
“You get this weird mentality where everyone begins to talk and act the same,” said Coutant. “You are in the field, and it sucks for everyone no matter their gender. You are just trying to make sure everyone graduates and help each other out because everyone has a strong suite.”
Coutant said IBOLC was harder physically than Basic Training and Officer Candidate School. “It was really physically demanding, but your body adjusts over time; you get used to carrying weight on your back.”
Coutant would like to encourage fellow women in the National Guard to consider joining the infantry, but she said it is not about the numbers. Coutant encourages “good Soldiers that I think will be able to help the organization and be good for this branch.”
When encouraging high-performing fellow female Soldiers, Coutant often encounters those who doubt their abilities. “I’ve met females in the military that are more physically fit than I am that tell me, ‘Oh I can’t do that.’ I always tell them. Yes, you can,” said Coutant.
She recounted her journey in deciding to become an infantry officer.
“I wanted to go to flight school and that did not happen for me, unfortunately,” said Coutant. While she had not considered infantry before as it was not an option when she first joined, those around her encouraged her.
“When I was applying to be an officer, I had a few people ask me, ‘You can’t fly, but could you do infantry?’ And I was like, why not?” said Coutant.
Becoming an officer was the next logical step, but her ultimate goal was to be a good leader. “I absolutely want to take care of people and just be a mentor and guide,” said Coutant. Her journey to a greater degree of leadership has led to many more weeks away from home.
Training has been nonstop for Coutant since she began OCS at the end of June, and she will not be slowing any time soon. She deployed with the rest of the 1-102nd Infantry Regiment March 10. After a brief stop in Fort Bliss, Texas, for mobilization training, Coutant and her fellow Soldiers will be in Africa supporting Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
While recognizing the chaotic nature of going from OCS to IBOLC to a deployment, Coutant is looking forward to the mission. “I’m excited to be able to work with my team and be around everyone for the next year.” she said.