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Minnesota National Guard
First Female Takes Command of Previously All-Male Unit

Minnesota National Guard ST PAUL, Minn- "I'm just another Soldier; it doesn't matter that I'm a female," said Capt Tara Robertson

Robertson's soft-spoken words were amplified by her appointment to command an all-male combat engineer unit

On September 14, the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company, a Minnesota Army National Guard unit based in Litchfield, not only received its first female commander, but it also officially cased its colors, signifying its separation from the 682nd Engineer Battalion With new colors and new leadership, the 849th has been restructured into Company B, 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division

"I've always dreamed of going to this unit because it's a combat engineer unit," said Robertson"They get to do all of the things that I consider fun as an engineering officer; with blowing stuff up and route clearance I've always wanted to get into that unit but it was always closed to females"

In January 24, 2013, the US military removed its ban on women serving in combat roles, and a July 23, 2014 Army Directive allowed the assignment of females into previously closed units That ban, however, did not keep female Soldiers like Robertson from working and serving in combat operations capacities in the past decade of conflict

In 2011-2012, Robertson was deployed to a remote outpost in Afghanistan where she was the only female Soldier Initially, the other Soldiers at the outpost were not keen on Robertson's presence

"[But] once they saw that I was just like them and didn't require any special treatment or anything like that, they were fine," said Robertson

In an ironic twist, her male counterparts envied the fact that Robertson had the opportunity to go on many more missions than they did "Close to 280 missions," she recounts "And a lot of foot patrols"

Now Robertson has new responsibilities to bear as a company commander and also as a role model

"It's not something people choose to do necessarily," she said "I never chose to [be a role model] But you realize you're in that role and you have to live up to those types of standards You realize other people are watching you and you can set an example by leading, and not only people in the military"

Thankfully, with her professional demeanor and strong work ethic, Robertson is leading Soldiers, with no hesitation or reticence to embrace her duty

"I think it's challenging for any new commander coming into the role," Robertson admits "It's all in your character You have to prove yourself no matter what and show people what you're capable of doing"

September 18, 2014
by Sgt Linsey Williams
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

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