“Girls rock” was the reaction of one of two female recruits, named the most outstanding soldiers this week.
Private Jessica Grassi and private Jamie Wood received the Cameron Baird VC MG award during their march out at Kapooka on Friday.
The pair stood alongside fellow recruits, from 45 and 46 platoons, on the sacred parade ground at Blamey Barracks, following a tradition dating back generations.
The young women’s success comes despite a News Corp report that criticised the Army of excluding male recruits from specific roles to address its gender gap.
This was contradicted by the Department of Defence, who said successful candidates selection was based on merit and a capacity to do the work, not on gender.
War hero and march out special guest Dan Keighran said it was “good to see” a change in demographic, with more and more women joining the armed forces.
The Victoria Cross recipient presented Private Grassi and private Wood with the prestigious award – named after commando team leader corporal Baird who was killed in Afghanistan.
The pair said it was a day they would never forget.
“It’s a great achievement,” Pte Wood said. “I feel so proud.”
Pte Wood, from 45 platoon, said she never thought she would be able to make it and receiving the award was beyond what she ever expected.
The young graduate said it was great to see women “dominate” the awards.
Pte Wood said she would call the city home for a while longer, learning the aircraft technician trade at RAAF Base Wagga.
Pte Grassi, from 46 platoon, said it was exciting to have achieved the top spot.
“I always try my best in everything,” Pte Grassi said.
“I just kept a smile on my face and carried on.”
The duo completed the Army’s pre-conditioning program, designed to help women achieve the fitness requirements before beginning the 80-day training course.
Private Izabella Palmero (46 platoon) and private Barry Sewel (45 platoon) were awarded the title of best shooter, while private Elizabeth French (46) and private Jack Sendall (45) were named the best at physical training.
Reviewing officer colonel Matt Gallagher congratulated the graduates and said they now carried the legacy of those who came before them; the legacy of soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.