FORT BENNING — Another Beeville native made the history books recently when Jalen Gomez became the first Mexican-American female to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga.
Her parents, José “Bumper” and Maria Gomez, were at the graduation ceremony and her father had the honor of putting the Army’s coveted “Ranger” patch on her uniform.
Bumper Gomez, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 21 years, said Jalen always has been a super achiever. She joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, while she was attending college at St. Mary’s University at San Antonio.
During her college years, Gomez said Jalen spent a year attending classes in London.
“She’s done it all on her own,” Gomez said of the 23-year-old second lieutenant.
Lt. Gomez went on active duty with the U.S. Army about a year and a half ago, planning to make the military a career.
Ranger school is considered more than 60 straight days of some of the most grueling physical and mental training in the military.
“I’ve been physically pushed to where I’m like, I’ve got to quit. I can’t take this,” she told a reporter covering the graduation.
Then she realized she needed to keep on to see just how far she could go.
Gomez said Jalen was born in Beeville and went to school here through the seventh grade.
She also spent a lot of time growing up in Southern California when her father was stationed there in the Marine Corps.
Gomez said this week that his daughter has orders to report to Fort Drum in Jefferson County New York.
The post is the home of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. It is 240 miles from New York City.
But first the new ranger will have to complete the Army’s airborne school and Pathfinder training at Fort Benning.
Bumper Gomez reported that talking to her fellow Ranger School graduates made him proud. The female soldiers were required to train right alongside the men and undergo the same training they did.
Gomez was told that several of the male graduates looked to his daughter as motivation to continue the training until they graduated.
Gomez said one of the graduates told him that “if she can make it, I can make it.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.