The soldier, whose identity has not been made public, completed the mentally and physically grueling seven-week course on Nov. 5, the Army said in a media release.
“We are extremely proud of this Soldier’s achievement and recognize that this is a milestone for not only Montana, but the entire National Guard and Army,” said Maj. Gen. J. Peter Hronek, the adjutant general for Montana. “This Soldier had to volunteer several times to reach this goal, which is a demonstration of her dedication and commitment to service.”
The woman enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard last December, and qualified as an expert shooter while attending Infantry One Station Unit Training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
She was recommended for the sniper course by training staff and chain of command while attending the 22-week Fort Benning course.
The course, like the position of sniper itself, requires incredible mental fortitude. For starters, candidates must be able to remain perfectly still in uncomfortable environments for hours at a time ― mosquitoes, inclement weather, heat, mud and sweat be damned.
Candidates are also highly isolated in the field, which presents its own set of problems, both mentally and physically.
“Instead of a normal 35-pound rucksack, a sniper might carry up to 110 pounds on his back and have to walk many miles or even crawl to accomplish the mission,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran told the Army News Service in a 2017 series documenting the rigors of sniper school. “Since snipers operate in small teams, if the equipment is needed, it has to be carried by that team.”
Women have steadily graduated from some of the military’s most challenging schools since the ban on women in combat was lifted in 2015. In August of that year, two female officers graduated from the Army’s elite Ranger School. And in 2020, the Army saw the graduation of its first female Green Beret.