Col. Diron Cruz, assistant adjutant general for the Guam Army National Guard, placed a blue cord around the right shoulder of 2nd Lt. Sheryl Padilla at the "Turning Blue" ceremony last week, symbolizing Padilla's initiation into the U.S. Army's infantry branch in a tradition dating back to the 1950s. Padilla, from the Guam Army National Guard's 1st-294th Infantry Regiment, made history as the first female infantry officer to serve in the Guam National Guard.

Alongside fellow Guam Guardsman 2nd Lt. Bryant Bamba, Padilla completed the U.S. Army Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course (IBOLC) April 11 at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 19-week physically and mentally demanding course comprises four phases, each of which tests tactical and physical agility, and requires students to pass a challenging knowledge-based test before advancing to the next phase.

'Where does the Army need me most?'

Upon completion of Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Meade, South Dakota, Padilla, a former signal soldier, asked her cadre, "Where does the Army need me most?" They replied with, "Infantry." The Department of Defense had just lifted the ban on women in combat arms positions months before, and Padilla decided to take on the challenge. Her courage, confidence and faith led her to successful completion of IBOLC as the Guam National Guard's first female infantry officer.

"The 12-mile ruck march was the most challenging event for me," Padilla said. "Second Lt. Bamba stuck by me the whole way encouraging me to finish." Humbled by the whole experience, Padilla's faith and determination to be the best leader for her future soldiers drove her to persevere through all obstacles she confronted.

Padilla will assume the role of platoon leader for Alpha Company, 1st-294th Infantry Regiment, upon her return to the Guam National Guard, while Bamba will be assigned as a platoon leader for Bravo Company, 1st-294th Infantry Regiment.