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In the barracks

Capt. Godman said all of the students carried little mirrors with them in the field, but for a few days, she purposely avoided looking into hers. When she did, she said, she was shocked that her male classmates could keep a straight face while talking to her.

“I wasn’t the only one trying to groom my fingernails and look at my eyebrows,” she said, laughing. “Vanity just goes away. You throw on the uniform, and suddenly you’re willing to crawl in the dirt, have spiders crawl across you, sleep in the dirt, do anything really, just — you’re on a mission. You don’t think about, ‘Oh what does my hair look like?’”

Sleeping in the same area wasn’t much of an issue. In the field, the women slept on the ground along with the men. Back at the base, they slept in huge barracks with concrete floors with rows of metal-frame beds on each side of a central aisle. The women slept at the far end, facing each other across the aisle, and men slept to their right and to their left.

In the morning, everyone changed into their uniforms, the men not thinking twice about tearing off their shirts. The women had to be a little more discreet, but no one seemed to care much there that women were present.

Capt. Armstrong said, for some of the male combat engineers, it was their first time working closely with a woman in their profession.

“I’m used to having to prove myself and I’m completely fine with that. I think it’s always better when you get respect you deserve,” she said. “They just saw me as a female, possibly a weak link, and when I proved that I wasn’t, it made our bond even stronger as a team.”

Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan Guerrerosaid Capt. Armstrong was a great “battle buddy,” a classmate that each student partners with throughout the course.

“I told her the other day, I’d go to war with her. Just from her true grit, and her pride and honor, and knowing that she wanted to succeed and reach that goal,” he said.

Sgt. Guerrero said he’s had a female battle buddy before — and ended up marrying her.

“I met her downrange, and we hated each other. No lie. And then we had to work together. We were forced to work together because of a mission. … She hated me, thought I was loud and obnoxious, and I thought she was stuck up, and I guess it grew from there,” he said with a chuckle.

He added that his wife didn’t mind him having a female battle buddy.

Pushing through

“She understands how I am as a soldier. I take it very, very seriously. I would never jeopardize fraternization or jeopardize the mission over a dumb feeling. Especially knowing that my wife is at home. My son is at home. To throw that all away for a happy night, it’s not worth it,” the sergeant said.

Capt. Godman’s battle buddy, National Guard Staff Sgt. Anthony Hughes acknowledged that the men watched the women at first, but the women proved themselves.

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