The first female active-duty Army soldier recently graduated from the M1A2 Abrams master gunner course at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to a news release.

Sgt. Cinthia Ramirez, 23, assigned to Avenger Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, completed the course earlier in December.

“I hope I can inspire many others to come and strive to be an Abrams master gunner. It’s not an easy school, but it’s not meant to [b]e. It challenges our knowledge on [our] platform, to be confident, competent and lethal leaders,” Ramirez said in a social media post.

Ramirez, a native of Plainview, Texas who joined the Army at 18, went to basic training at Fort Benning before serving at Fort Hood in Texas as a driver, a loader and then a gunner, she told Military Times in an interview. She also said she served on rotation to South Korea in 2019.

The sergeant’s accomplishment marks another step in the slow march toward gender integration in combat arms, which has slowly seen female representation increase over time.

In 2011, Staff Sgt. Jessica Ray became the first female to graduate from the Avenger master gunner course and in 2020, Staff Sgt. Tiana Trent was celebrated as the first black female to attend and complete the course.

In 2016, Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Saunders became the first female graduate of the Army’s Master Gunner Common Core course, Army Times previously reported, and in 2020 Sgt. Shawna Tipton became the first female to graduate from the Bradley master gunner course.

Students in the Abrams course are tested over roughly two months on a wide range of curriculum to become a master gunner, a subject matter expert in weapons systems that helps advise commanders and assists with gunnery-related training.

The course is not for the faint of heart, Ramirez said in the interview. Most of the time in the course is spent hitting the books, but a week of hands-on learning during live fire drills also offered a glimpse into the realities of being a master gunner, she said.

Although she did not pass the course during her first attempt earlier this year, which Ramirez attributes in part to the challenge of the curriculum, during her second pursuit she had a better grasp of what was being explained.

Ramirez said she was sometimes a “trouble child” but she credits her family and support network for helping remind her of her own potential.

“Mistakes shouldn’t stop you from wanting to be a better person. So, just because we as females might fail the first time we try, it doesn’t mean we stop. We have to keep going and pushing,” she said.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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