An Army National Guard soldier marked a new milestone in the U.S. military Thursday by graduating from the grueling Special Forces Qualification Course (Q Course) to become the first woman to join the Green Berets.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command would not identify the soldier, but confirmed that she graduated from the 53-week course in a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to a USASOC release.
USASOC Commander Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the class of approximately 400 soldiers.
"Each and every one of you demonstrated the ability to meet the baseline standards and competencies for admission to our [Special Forces] Regiment," Beaudette said.
The Q Course is made up of six phases and includes training in small-unit operations, advanced Special Forces tactics, language training and unconventional warfare. After graduating, Green Berets typically are assigned to 12-member operational detachment alpha (ODA) teams, which are made up of weapons, communications, intelligence, engineer and medical specialists.
The graduates received the Special Forces Tab and donned the coveted Green Beret, identifying them as experts at conducting complex unconventional warfare missions behind enemy lines.
On their berets, they wear the distinctive Special Forces unit insignia that bears the phrase "De Oppresso Liber," which means "To Free the Oppressed."
Army Special Forces had been one of the last remaining male-only communities after former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter officially opened all jobs involving direct combat to women in late 2015.
In 2015, then-Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first two female soldiers to break through one of the Army's toughest training courses by successfully graduating from Army Ranger School, a physically and mentally punishing 61-day course previously reserved for male soldiers.
There has been one woman who previously completed requirements of the Army Special Forces Course. In 1980, Capt. Kate Wilder met requirements to graduate, but was not permitted to do so. Though she finally got her graduation certificate, she never ultimately served in an SF unit, and the Army moved afterward to prevent other women from attending the course.
The female soldier who graduated Thursday "excelled throughout the course and earned the respect of both her instructors and her peer group" a senior Army official told Military.com.
It is USASOC's policy "to not release the names of service members in training or assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command due to unique missions assigned upon graduation," according to the release.
"From here, you will go forward and join the storied formation of the Green Berets, where you will do what you are trained to do: challenge assumptions, break down barriers, smash through stereotypes, innovate, and achieve the impossible," Beaudette said in the release. "Thankfully, after today, our Green Beret men and women will forever stand in the hearts of free people everywhere."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.