CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Lowcountry soldier is making history as the first infantry-qualified female in the South Carolina Army National Guard.
Staff Sergeant Rachelle Dutton graduated from an infantry training course at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, at the end of October.
Dutton said it was an important process to get to this point.
“It’s important for my battalion. It’s important for the National Guard, for the state of South Carolina,” Dutton said. “It brings about change. It signifies that we are moving forward.”
Dutton said she had wanted to pursue her infantry qualification since January 2016.
That’s when the Department of Defense finally allowed women to hold roles in all military occupational specialties.
“If we went through the same training, passed the same exact physical tests…what’s the difference in me being a man or a woman?” Dutton said. “There’s not a difference to me as long as you can meet the standards, as long as you can do the physical tasks that you are supposed to do.”
Dutton said she was supported through her training and found her harshest criticisms coming from herself.
“I wasn’t going to quit mentally,” Dutton said. “I told everyone before I left, if I get sent home it’s because I physically did not make it, like I broke my leg or something.”
She said she found her motivation in a woman she has looked up to since she was young.
“My grandmother was in the Marine Corps back in the 1940s,” Dutton said. "She was a big inspiration for me. I didn’t really know her very well. She died when I was young, but I was always very inspired by her by the stories my mom would tell me.”
Dutton hopes to use her training to help integrate other women into infantry roles within the National Guard.