FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The Army Friday informed Capt. Kathleen Wilder that she will be the first woman ever to receive a Green Beret.
Capt. Wilder, 29, of New Orleans was notified that Gen. Donn A. Starry, commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., had approved her appeal against the director of the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg who said she had not met standards for serving in the elite corps.
Capt. Wilder had who claimed she was the victim of sexual discrimination while attending the Special Forces school.
'What can I say? I'm very, very happy,' she said in a telephone interview from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where she is taking a military intelligence course. 'I'm very grateful to Gen. Starry for his courageous decision.'
Starry's decision was based on information gathered during a four-month investigation by a brigadier general at Fort Bragg assigned to probe charges made by Capt. Wilder against instructors and members of the Special Forces school.
Capt. Wilder failed a three-week guerrilla warfare field exercise that is part of the grueling training for Special Forces soldiers. She appealed to Col. Ola Mize, director of the school, on grounds she was flunked because of sexual prejudice.
Mize rejected her appeal, but recommended she be allowed to take the field exercise again.
In August 1980, a Fayetteville newspaper reported that Capt. Wilder, who fought for a year to get into the school, did better on the field test than some of the 50 males who were awarded Green Berets that month. Only three candidates in her 53-member officers' class failed the course.
Capt. Wilder said she did not fall out of the physical training a single time, although some male candidates who graduated did.
Women work at the 5th and 7th Special Forces groups at Fort Bragg, but none are Special Forces-qualified.
An Army spokesman at Fort Monore, Va., said Friday Capt. Wilder will be credited with the course but the Army's combat exclusion policy for women will keep her out of combat roles if she is assigned to a Special Forces unit.
'Following an investigtion at the request of Capt. Kathleen Wilder on charges of sexual discrimination, the Army has determined that Kathleen Wilder will receive credit for successfully completing the Special Forces officers course at Fort Bragg,' the spokesman read from a news release.
'As a graduate and a Special Forces qualified officer, Capt. Wilder, if assigned to a Special Forces unit, will be entitled to wear a Green Beret with the full-flash emblem when serving as a Special Forces officer. Since present laws prohibit women from serving in direct combat roles, Capt. Wilder would serve in those units supporting Special Forces combat teams,' the spokesman said.
The full-flash is the unit's emblem awarded to those who succesfully complete the officer and enlisted courses.