MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — The Vermont Army National Guard is the first to open all combat arms units to women. 

Vermont Army National Guard Chief of Staff Colonel Tracey Poirier has been with the military for 22 years. “I joined the reserves at 17 years old,” Col. Poirier said. “I saw it as an opportunity to go to college.” 

Col. Poirier said we need to change the narrative about military service and what it means to serve. “Being in the military doesn’t mean that you have to be masculine, that’s not true,” she said.

Only 14% of soldiers at the Vermont Army National Guard are women. Poirier said she wants women to know there are opportunities for them. 

“I don’t think women in the United States see themselves as soldiers,” Col. Poirier said. “When they are young and they are growing up and they’re playing dress up. And it doesn’t mean that because you played a princess when you were a little girl you can’t have this opportunity.” 

In 2016 the Department of the Army opened combat roles to women. Women were able to transfer into combat roles, but not inslist in them directly. Authorization for the change required all combat arms units to install women into leadership roles, as well as complete “gender integration” training and demonstrate a “healthy unit culture.”

Colonel Brey Hopkins said by opening the demographic it will make them more successful as a unit.

“It’s a proven fact that diversity and bringing those who are typically not in line with what an organization used to think expands your thought process,” Hopkins said.

Col. Hopkins said the Vermont National Guard recruits up to 20 people a month, and that this opportunity will increase their recruiting demographic as well. “We are able to cast a much wider net in order to continue to bring qualified individuals into the uniform services and service of the state and country,” Hopkins said.

Colonel Poirier serves for many reasons. “When I look back and I see all the things that I have done,” she said. “It gives me lots of stories to tell and you can look back on your life and say, I did something important.”