Staff Sgt. Sonia Buchanan's military career could be considered ground breaking, or perhaps glass-ceiling breaking.
She has already served among Army Rangers and Special Forces teams in western Afghanistan as part of a Cultural Support Team — and was one of four Wisconsin Army National Guard female Soldiers to graduate from the inaugural Cultural Support Training Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 2011. She has completed drill sergeant school.
And she is the first of several female Soldiers to serve with the 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment. She said her joining the headquarters section of a combat unit was the result of various factors. A change to the unit's organization structure meant that the human resources position she will assume was now available to staff sergeants. That organizational change also opened up positions for females.
"I have always had my eyes set on this unit," Buchanan said. "Years ago I told myself, 'If the 105th Cav ever opens up to females, I am going to be one of the first over there.' Now that has become a reality."
Buchanan said her experience in Afghanistan, her drill sergeant qualification, military bearing and competence also played a role in her selection. She believes she will help other female Soldiers — recruits currently undergoing initial military training — successfully integrate into the battalion.
"I am looking forward to mentoring young females that come into the 105th in the future," she said. "I have had the most amazing female mentors in my career, and I know I would not be where I am today were it not for their counsel and guidance."
Buchanan noted that other militaries have successfully integrated females into combat arms units.
"It has not hindered effectiveness, but only enhanced it," she said, adding that the motto of the 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment — "Semper Porro," or Always Forward — is quite appropriate.
"How lucky are we to be in an organization that is continually moving forward," she said, "embracing and setting an example of integrating the diversity of our gender perspectives to improve and rethink our existing approaches in the possibility of building a stronger and more flexible organization."
Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, deputy adjutant general for Army, said he was extremely proud of Buchanan's latest ground-breaking role.
"I've known her for a number of years," Anderson said. "Her demonstrated professionalism, commitment to excellence and operational experience will blend very nicely with the demands of serving in a combat line unit. Staff Sgt. Buchanan is a combat-tested leader and a perfect example of the phenomenal Soldiers we have serving in the Wisconsin Army National Guard — who, I am confident, will fully integrate into the combat roles recently opened to our female warriors."
Anderson said the Wisconsin Army National Guard will grow stronger and more capable as more opportunities are made available to female Soldiers.
"While this is an early demonstration of the Army's commitment to expand roles in the military to women, it will not be the last," he said. "I am proud to be a member of this organization that embraces such diversity and inclusion in our ranks."