2 North Texas teens become state’s first females to enlist as Army infantry recruits

Shelby Sparkman (left) of McKinney North High School and Hannah Carpenter of Alvord High School, both 17, recited the oath administered Wednesday by Sparkman’s grandfather Gregory J. Prickett during a ceremonial swearing-in at the Dallas Army Recruiting Battalion in Irving. Sparkman and Carpenter are the first females to enlist in infantry in Texas. (Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Two teens from McKinney and Alvord are first in line to serve on the front lines, becoming the Army’s first female infantry recruits in Texas.

Shelby Sparkman and Hannah Carpenter, both 17, chose to serve their country in a combat role that opened up to women only last month. They will start basic training together in Fort Benning, Ga., next summer after they graduate from high school.

For those who don’t think women belong in the infantry, which will put them among the ground troops on the front lines, Sparkman said, “We’ll prove them wrong.”

At their ceremonial swearing-in Wednesday in Irving, she said she only recently decided to join the infantry but has no qualms about being deployed for combat.

“I do not want special treatment,” said Sparkman, a a junior at McKinney North High, noting that her small stature has raised more than a few eyebrows. “It’s about if you can hold your own. And I can.”

Carpenter said she has long wanted to join the military and hadn’t realized certain posts had been off-limits to women. Gender shouldn’t be a factor, she said. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” she said.

Having lived in the small Wise County town of Alvord, population about 1,400, she’s hoping the Army will let her experience the world. She also hopes to see some action.

“It’d be cool to fight people and shoot weapons and blow up stuff,” Carpenter said.

The Army has been removing various gender-based restrictions since 2012. The last barriers to women were lifted April 1 with the Army’s opening of infantry, armor and fire support specialties. More than 20 women across the country have enlisted in those combat-related specialties in the first month.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 18 women have enlisted in the armor (tank operators) and fire support (missile maintenance) specialties, but Sparkman and Carpenter are the first to choose infantry.

“Having infantry opened up to females is a victory,” said Capt. Maria Medina, who has been in the Army for 18 years and attended Wednesday’s ceremony.




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