Sen. Mike Crapo on Thursday honored Sgt. 1st Class Erin Smith of the Idaho Army National Guard with a Spirit of Freedom Award during a recent visit to Gowen Field, according to an Idaho National Guard press release.
Crapo said the award was as much for Smith’s continuing sacrifice and dedication to the U.S. military as for her recent distinction as the nation’s first female armor enlisted soldier. Smith graduated the U.S. Army’s M1 Armor Crewman School at the end of June.
Smith has been with the Idaho Army National Guard since 2001 as a health care specialist. During a tour in Iraq, she earned a Combat Medical Badge for providing medical support while her unit was engaged by the enemy, according to the release.
The U.S. Armed Forces has only allowed women to serve in combat roles as recently as December 2015, when Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened the positions for military members regardless of gender.
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“Thank you to the schoolhouse for allowing me to attend and for being so professional and also being the first,” Smith said in the release. “If it wasn’t for the schoolhouse wanting to do that, for wanting to pave the way, for wanting to be the first, none of us could’ve done it.”