MILWAUKEE — A Platteville high school student faced the U.S. flag and raised her hand to swear an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States” at an Apr. 19 ceremony in Milwaukee.
Pvt. Emily Buchholtz will fulfill her oath while serving as an infantry Soldier in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. She is the first female recruit to join the organization as an enlisted infantry Soldier.
“I like the thrill of it,” Buchholtz said when asked why she selected the infantry. “I like the challenge, I like having to work hard for anything I do.”
Buchholtz initially wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps but her father knew Platteville’s National Guard recruiter and urged her to visit him about what the Guard could offer.
“Sgt. [1st Class Zach] Mayberry told me about the benefits,” Buchholz said. “I had a better opportunity in [the Guard] to get the job that I wanted in the military rather than the job that they would give me.”
“I thought that Zach did an outstanding job of explaining the differences between the Army National Guard, the Army and the Marine Corps,” said Bruce Buchholtz, Emily’s father. “He was very diplomatic and presented all options equally.”
Buchholtz must complete basic training and infantry advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Georgia, this fall before she can wear the infantry’s distinctive blue cord over her right shoulder. When she does, she’ll join a small, but growing group of other female infantry Soldiers already serving in the Wisconsin National Guard.
“Putting on that blue cord at graduation [from infantry basic officer leadership course] was such an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” said 2nd Lt. Britney Fischer to Buchholtz before she administered the oath of enlistment.
Fischer in July 2018 became Wisconsin’s first female infantry officer. She is a platoon leader with Menomonie’s 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry. She is learning the ropes of her first assignment and her rewards and challenges are similar to those of any new Army officer regardless of branch.
“People are my biggest challenge and my biggest reward,” Fischer said. “Learning the differences in each of my Soldiers and what motivates them. I have amazing squad leaders and a really good platoon sergeant.
The Department of Defense opened field artillery and combat engineer positions to women in 2015. It followed in 2016 by opening infantry, armor and cavalry military occupational specialties (MOS) to women. Four years later, 31 women in the Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers hold a field artillery MOS and 13 serve as combat engineers.
In recent years, women have ascended into positions of command and authority at all levels of the organization and in all branches including in battalion and brigade command. The organization currently has multiple female general officers including Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s assistant adjutant general for readiness and training, and Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, the Wisconsin National Guard’s deputy adjutant general for Army.
“Wisconsin is integrating females at all levels of combat arms into our units across the state. Having the ability to enlist a diverse force in all branches provides that competitive edge in recruiting talent,” said Mathews, who also serves as the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s senior officer.
Harnessing that talent is a vital component of the organization achieving its readiness objectives and ensuring its ability to fulfill both its state and federal missions.
After she completes her training, Buchholtz will join Fischer and two non-commissioned officers as female infantry Soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Buchholtz will join Fischer in the Menomonie unit after she completes her training. Company A, 1-128th Infantry is one of the state’s pilot units for integrating women in combat arms.
“The Menomonie unit is young and has been an open and accepting unit regarding women in the military,” Fischer said.