Victoria Wilder is spending her final semester as a cadet at the University of North Georgia (UNG) preparing to commission as a second lieutenant into the U.S. Army Infantry branch – the first female cadet from UNG to become an Infantry officer.
"I wanted to be at that decisive point in the action. I feel as though it is where I am meant to be so that I can do my part effectively to keep everything I stand for safe from harm," said Wilder, a Byron, Georgia, native and enlisted soldier in the Georgia Army National Guard. "That's just my personality and where I fit best. When I put on a uniform, I am a soldier, not a woman in uniform."
After graduating and commissioning in early May, Wilder will go to the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course (IBOLC) at Fort Benning; she completed jump training in 2015 at the Army's Airborne School.
Maj. Donovan Duke, one of Wilder's military science instructors at UNG, believes Wilder is prepared for IBOLC because of her attitude and her military education at UNG.
"Wilder wouldn't be as well suited to other jobs in the Army; her alpha personality is suited well to combat arms. There are a handful of female cadets I've worked with who could do this and I think she's one of them," Duke said. "What's going to be hard is the ongoing, everyday life; combat arms is a way of life. I look forward to seeing how she deals with the challenge."
Cadets who are observer-trainer-mentors (OTM) like Wilder get in-depth training and leadership experience in tactics, operations and strategy that mirrors what's expected of them their first two years as Army lieutenants, Duke explained. The OTMs carry large responsibility for training of the cadets under them, which he said contributes to the ongoing success and excellence of UNG's Corps of Cadets.
"When you raise the bar, people like Wilder will do everything they can to reach that bar, and that's why UNG's leadership development program is so good," Duke said. "I would compare our graduating cadets to lieutenants who have been in the field for a year."
National Guard Capt. Madison Bips, who also is UNG's assistant director of Cadet Admissions, saw Wilder's capacity for leadership firsthand in the 179th Military Police Company when she took over command of 2nd Platoon and ran 15 training missions last summer.
"She was recognized by her battalion commander for her efforts," Bips said. "Her soldiers received her very well when she took over her platoon. She was able to find common ground with them and gain their trust through her abilities and tactical knowledge. She has definitely been a go-getter when it comes to tough training. The entire company was very impressed with her branching Infantry, and I know she will continue to do great things for the Army."
Wilder also is the first cadet in UNG's athletic training degree program, which requires 1,000 internship hours over two years. She plans to take certification boards this summer and maintain her certification so that she can work within the military as an occupational therapist after leaving active duty.
Wilder said it's important that people understand the requirements to enter and be successful in the Infantry are the same for all soldiers – men and women.
"The standards are the same and they should be the same – it shouldn't be lowered. You're in charge of lives and by lowering the standards for anyone, it makes any mission overseas that much more dangerous," Wilder said. "I don't want anyone to think 'She's just going to slide by.' I'm here and I mean business and I plan to be ready to go above and beyond the requirements."