Female cadets making their mark at VMI

By C Craig

LEXINGTON (WSLS 10) - Female cadets are making their mark in the military and their numbers are growing in rank. Just last week, two women successfully completed the U.S. Army's Ranger School.

Learning drills, new cadets at Virginia Military Institute are put to the test. Over the years, the ranks of women steadily grow at VMI. This year, 10 percent of the 500 new cadets are female.

For Master Sargent Rachel Tanner, joining the core was personal.

"It's always been a fire in me to go military," Tanner said. "So, I'm going to commission Air Force upon graduation."

Tanner said training in a male-dominant workplace gives her hope for empowering more women who want to join.

"I had a female First Sergeant, so I looked up to her when I was a rat," Tanner said. "Now they have a female Sergeant as well, and can see that in their rat line. That's what I want to do - empower those females."

In 1997, the school became co-ed; opening its doors to female cadets. Now, the administration is hoping to invite more young women to their program by providing full female panels.

Last year, 73 new female cadets enrolled in VMI - setting a record for the post. Tanner and others said the institute is making an effort to appeal to women.

"The Cadet Corps has gotten bigger in the last several years and the numbers of females have as well," said VMI Communication Director Sherri Tombarge. "There has been a consistent effort since we first admitted women to help women envision how they would be successful here."

With an influx of females performing in the same arena as men, Tanner said the biggest competition is overcoming the mental exhaustion that comes with strenuous training.

"You have those moments in the rat line where you think ‘I don't know if I can do this…this is tough'," commented Tanner. "Then you think about how many other females have gone before you, how many other females have done it and that definitely drives you."

Later in the week, Cadets at VMI move forward with physical training. Some obstacles include tire flipping and rope climbing.

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