As the United States observes Women’s History Month, the Nevada Army National Guard welcomes its first-ever female tank operator and platoon leader. Second lieutenant Katarina Schumacher joined the National Guard in 2015 and doggedly worked her way through training to achieve her current position, leading a platoon comprising four tanks and 16 soldiers.
But her pioneering journey wasn’t without its obstacles, as she confided to a local news station. “I know a lot of people didn’t get their hopes up when I first started because … there have been females before who have tried and failed,” she told KRNV.
Even those who wanted to see her succeed had reason to wonder if she would make it.
One Nevada native is blazing her own path in the Army National Guard as the first ever female tanker.
On the side of her male subordinates and fellow officers, there was some skepticism too. Some were worried that standards might be lowered to allow female officers in and showed their displeasure by avoiding her.
“A lot of guys were incredibly concerned that things were going to change for the worse,” the 24-year-old Schumacher said. “Soldiers would kind of just stare at me and run off, like no one wanted to talk.”
Yet, Schumacher stayed the course and won the position and respect of her fellow soldiers. Persistence was the key to breaking down barriers and prejudices based on her gender.
The best way for her to open doors was to show she knew what she was doing in a tank. “You get past the fact that there’s a female really quick when you’re relying so heavily [on each other],” she said. “The tank only has four people, and you need all four people to make it work.”
Showing her mettle on a daily basis earned male soldiers’ respect. “I wasn’t just defined as a female, I was defined as a competent officer,” she explained. “I slowly saw my soldiers following me more and more.”
Since completing her training, Schumacher has become “a platoon leader in Delta Company, 1-221st Cavalry, the Las Vegas-based unit equipped with M1A2 Abrams tanks,” per a Nevada National Guard press release.
Nevada Army Guard Officer Strength Manager Maj. David Connelly stated, “Lieutenant Schumacher is a quality officer who was going to be successful in any position. It just so happens that she’s blazing trails in Armor in today’s gender-neutral military.”
In addition to what she is trained to do on the battlefield, Schumacher’s presence as a role model for others is extremely important. “Schumacher’s position as a platoon leader in the 1-221st marks another milestone on the Nevada Army Guard’s path toward combat arms gender integration,” the National Guard states.
Comparing her own achievements to the first domino to fall, Schumacher believes it will definitely lead to more females in cavalry in years to come. The Nevada National Guard also anticipates the role her success will play in their recruitment of future women officers, which will then create more positions down the chain of command.