Kayci Landes wanted to serve on the front lines when she joined the Army five years ago.
The Army wouldn’t let her. Back then, combat positions in the infantry and cavalry were not open to women.
Now, the Apache helicopter mechanic has that option, and she’s taken advantage of it.
The sergeant is on a path to become the Army’s first enlisted female cavalry scout. She committed to the new assignment Wednesday at a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
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“We’re all soldiers, so we all have to deal with what the ‘Big Army’ throws at us,” she said before her re-enlistment ceremony at the base. “And I’m something the ‘Big Army’ is throwing at them. Whatever. I will earn your respect over time.”
Women had been barred from serving in combat roles until December, when Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted all restrictions on women in the armed forces.
Landes is currently a noncommissioned officer in the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, and she served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
“I do like a challenge,” she said. “I enjoy spending time in the field. The fact that they spend a lot of time in the field doesn’t bother me. I do enjoy the dirty part of the Army, even though I haven’t had as much time doing that.”
Landes and her husband, Army Spc. Brendan Stahl-Dugger, have four children ranging from 11 weeks old to 8 years old.
She didn’t tell the kids about her new job until the night before her ceremony.
“They ask a lot of questions,” Landes said. “I told them a little too early that we were coming to Washington, so I had to deal with questions about Washington for like six months.”
She’s not worried about the children when she starts her cavalry scout training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October — either family steps in when both parents are away from home for work.
Landes said her husband, a combat engineer, isn’t concerned about whether she can be a cavalry scout — he just hopes she will like the new job.
Cavalry scouts go out ahead of groups of tanks, conducting reconnaissance and finding ideal routes for the vehicles to take.
It’s fitting work for someone who is blazing a new trail in the Army.
“It is quite remarkable for people to want to do something when you’re breaking ground,” Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love of the 7th Infantry Division said.
“I think it’s really going to take off, but it takes these firsts to make it happen. I’m pumped up.”