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NEWS | Jan. 4, 2023

Resiliency leads to the Kentucky National Guard’s first female infantry officer

By Army 1st Lt. Kaitlin Baudendistel, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

In January 2022, the Kentucky Army National Guard welcomed the commonwealth’s first female infantry officer to the team.

2nd Lt. Jennifer Korth attended basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. in August of 2020 and commissioned through Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Ga. in April 2021. Immediately following OCS, Korth attended the 20-week Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course (IBOLC) at Fort Benning, Ga., completing her training in January 2022.

Prior to joining the Guard, Korth received her undergraduate degree in political science from Northern Kentucky University. Following graduation, she attended Louisiana State University to study mass communication with a focus in political communication.  

Originally focused on branching quartermaster, branching infantry was not the path Korth envisioned for the beginning of her Army career.

“I had always looked up to those in the infantry. They always had confidence and strength that I never believed that I had, and always wished that I could,” said Korth. “I would love to go infantry, but I’m just not fit for it.”

When asked why she didn’t think she was cut out for it, Korth voiced she was afraid of being too slow or not strong enough, but that she would keep it in the back of her mind, or possibly try it out later in her career.

After graduating basic training, Korth spoke with the 1-149th Infantry Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jason Mendez. Mendez let her know that they were trying to diversify their leadership and were looking for the first female infantry officer. With the encouragement from Mendez, Korth felt ready to give it her all and pursue the infantry.

Though Korth faced many obstacles to become an infantry branch qualified officer, she never lost sight of her goal.

During week 16 of IBOLC, Korth failed the day iteration of land navigation retraining, forcing her to restart training at week 1.

“It was very unsettling to go through most of the course and then failing something that I felt pretty strong at,” said Korth. “I remember walking through the course and saying, ‘I am going to recycle. I am recycling. I can’t believe I am recycling.’"

“I just sat down on the trail and pulled out my phone, which was in a sealed bag, for a couple of minutes. I said to myself, ‘once I open this bag, it’s done. It’s completely over.’ I turned on my phone, turned on some music, and it started to rain. I walked back to the starting point listening to some folk music from Kentucky to remind me of home.”

Once back with the rest of her company, she was met with lots of encouragement from her peers, which gave her the reassurance she needed to keep going.

Weeks later, when it was time to complete land navigation training again, Korth wouldn’t meet the deadline during the night portion of the training. Knowing she was going to fail; she asks one of the instructors on the course to take her back to the company area.

“I remember saying, ‘I don’t know if I’m supposed to be doing this. Here I am, failing again.’”

That’s when the instructor asked what her “why” was.

Korth’s answer was, “I believe that those who are willingly signing and putting their lives on the line, to serve and make that ultimate sacrifice, deserve someone to willingly serve and sacrifice for them too.”

With continued determination and encouragement from her instructors and classmates, Korth would go on to complete every task and ultimately earn the right to wear the coveted blue cord.

“One of the things I did want to do when I joined the Guard was to go on a deployment,” said Korth.

An opportunity that was quickly afforded to her as the 1-149th had just deployed to Kosovo.

“As soon as Lt. Col. Mendez mentioned the opportunity to join the unit in Kosovo I was like, ‘This is what I really want to do.’”

Korth was able to join her unit for the deployment in March of this year, serving as the executive officer for Delta Company, 1-149th IN, Liaison Monitoring Teams (LMTs) for the southern region of Kosovo. The LMT’s main duty is to speak with locals, create lasting relationships that will follow through each rotation, and learn the heart of Kosovo.

“2nd Lt. Jennifer Korth’s story is a great example of determination and perseverance. She’s proven that she has earned the privilege of leading Soldiers within this battalion,” said Lt. Col. Jason Mendez. “I’m grateful for her decision which was backed up with a desire and commitment to see it through during some tremendous adversity. I am confident she will continue to be successful as she paves the way for others to follow in her footsteps.”   
 

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