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NEWS | Dec. 22, 2014

Utah National Guard Soldier breaking down barriers for women

By Public Affairs Office Utah National Guard

DRAPER, Utah - The U.S. Army Ranger School selected a Utah Guard member to become an observer/advisor (O/A) last November as part of a stepping-stone program for gender integration into the Army elite group of Rangers.

FirstLt. Alessandra T. Kirby, platoon leader from A Company 489th Brigade Support Battalion in Spanish Fork, was selected for the O/A program after a grueling one-week evaluation at Fort Benning Nov. 9-15.

"I believe that every Soldier should be assessed based upon their full potential," said Kirby, resident of South Salt Lake, "not by their stature, or color of skin, or gender, [but rather] by the soldier’s ability to complete the mission."

Many applied in response to the All-Army-Activity message 221/2014 seeking female candidates to serve as O/As for the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Ranger Course Assessment to assist Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade cadre and identify requirements and considerations for potential female integration.

Kirby and 45 other womenwere assessed on their potential to pass the rigorous Ranger Course with the Ranger Physical Assessment (49 push-ups in two minutes, 59 sit-ups in two minutes, 5-mile run in less than 40 minutes, and six chin-ups), a 12-mile march in three hours, the Combat Water Survival Assessment, night and day land navigation, warrior tasks and drills, the Malvesti and Darby Queen Obstacle courses, and radio/weapons capabilities during the one-week evaluation.

Thirty-one female Soldiers emerged victorious with offers to serve at the Ranger School from January to September 2015. Of the 31 selected, two were Army Reserves and only one was National Guard - Utah’s 1st Lt. Kirby.

"The Utah National Guard is very proud of 1st Lt. Kirby, not just as a woman breaking down barriers, but more importantly as an outstanding soldier," said Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. "We maintain an environment where our members are judged for their performance and achievement, not on their race or gender."

These women will forge the way for female integration into the long-standing fraternity of Rangers as they identify the training, logistics and administrative changes required for course integration. All of these top-performers aspire to complete the challenging Ranger Course and become Rangers themselves, but are acting on faith of a positive decision to occur no later than January 2016.

The Secretary of Defense will determine whether women will be permitted to become qualified and to serve in other military occupational specialties that are currently closed to females.

"I want to be the best Soldier that I can be," Kirby said. "Why not go to a school that can make me that best Soldier? That’s how I see it."

Kirby, no stranger to challenges and breaking barriers, was the first female Guard member to advance to the All-National-Guard Soldier level Best Warrior Competition in 2011 when she represented Utah with honor.