SANTA FE, N.M. — For a young woman about to make history, Anissa Martinez was surprisingly calm Tuesday as she took the 72-word oath of enlistment that officially made her the first New Mexico woman to join the U.S. Army’s infantry ranks.
Before January, the Army’s combat jobs – as with those of most military branches – were closed to women. In 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reversed long-standing regulations that prohibited women from serving in about 10 percent of roughly 220,000 military positions. The Army’s prohibitions included infantry, armor, reconnaissance and some special operations units.
But since January, those positions have been open to all soldiers, regardless of sex.
So, with about a dozen friends, family members and fellow soldiers in attendance, Martinez took the oath, signed her enlistment contract and became the first woman in the state to join the infantry.
“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” Martinez said after the ceremony at the Albuquerque Military Entrance Processing Station near Eubank and Interstate 40. “The Army was the one (branch of service) that interested me most.”
Martinez, 18, graduated from Española Valley High School in May. She hails from El Duende, a small village northwest of Española.
Other than some great-uncles, no one in her immediate family has served in the military, she said.
Sgt. Eric Louive, a recruiter with the Santa Fe Recruiting Center, said he had been working with Martinez since May to make her longtime dream a reality.
“From the first time that we sat down and talked, she told me she wanted infantry,” said Louive, an Ohio native and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. “As a (fellow) infantryman, that means a lot.”
Louive said it’s rewarding for a recruiter to be able to direct new soldiers toward a job they want to do, so he was happy to see Martinez take that final step.
“She’s really motivated,” he said.
Martinez’s mother, Pamela Atencio, said she wasn’t surprised that her daughter joined the Army – or the infantry.
“She’s been saying it for last few years,” Atencio said. “But I thought by this time she would change her mind.
“After graduating (from high school) it changes your whole outlook on life, and I thought something else would have come up and change her mind,” she said.
“I’m scared, but I think all parents are,” when their children, especially an only-child like Anissa, join the military, Atencio said.
The new soldier’s father, Emery Martinez, said he was “very proud” to see his daughter enter the military.
Martinez will report for basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., in March.
Between now and then, she said, she’ll work and start getting in shape for the rigors of infantry training.
She’s never been to Georgia, she said, but added, “I really like to travel.”