A female Montana National Guard soldier has become the first woman in history to graduate from the U.S. Army Sniper Course in Ft. Benning, Georgia.

KGVO spoke to Major Ryan Finnegan, Public Information Officer with the Montana National Guard about this breaking story.

“A female Montana Army National Guard soldier has graduated from the US Army sniper course at Fort Benning, Georgia, just last Friday, November 5, which means she's become the first woman in history to complete that course,” said Major Finnegan. “For us, it’s an historic moment. This is a milestone not only for Montana, for the entire National Guard and also the U.S. Army, so we're incredibly proud of her achievements.”

Finnegan said the woman’s name and hometown are being withheld to protect her identity now that she has become a qualified U.S. Army Sniper. He said the school is intense and many candidates drop out.

“The sniper course is a very intensive seven week course with a very high attrition rate,” he said. “So what's so incredible about this is that she is indeed the first woman to go through. In past years, schools like this have been closed to women. It was only in the last few years that they've had the opportunity to attend, but at schools not just like the sniper course, but also Ranger School, combat and other courses, women are continuing to attend and they're continuing to succeed in ever increasing numbers.”

Major Finnegan said becoming a qualified U.S. Army Sniper involves a great deal more than marksmanship.

“The U.S. Army Sniper Course involves not just the marksmanship skills and being able to hit a target at extremely high range,” he said “It's also about camouflage and being able to move unseen and move stealthily in order to gain intelligence, observe enemy movements, and many other things other than just what many in the public think of as shooting the rifle.”

Major Finnegan said the success of this female National Guard Sniper opens the door even wider for other men and women to achieve success by serving in the U.S. Army.

“I'd say it shows just one of the many opportunities available in not just the Montana National Guard but the National Guard as a whole and the U.S. Army,” he said. “In speaking to the soldier when she first joined, she did not at that time anticipate becoming a sniper. It was an opportunity that she was able to earn through her high achievement and training, and it's just one of the kinds of specialty schools that are available for those who join our organization.”

On hand for the Sniper Course graduation ceremony were Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa, Command Sergeant Major of the Army National Guard, and Command Sgt. Maj. Claudena Brady, State Command Sergeant Major for the Montana Army National Guard.

With the completion of training, the soldier will join her unit.

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