Trailblazing infantry soldier has her sights set on the sky

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, December 21, 2017, 5:27 PM EST

Six months after Orlando's first female U.S. Army infantry recruit left for boot camp, she's back home, a soldier — and a changed person.

“I just graduated last Friday,” said Briana Conde, who was peppered with questions by University High School students Thursday.

“My boot camp experience was... difficult,” she said, but “a lot has changed in the past six months.”

She said she's physically stronger and has a greater determination to motivate others — such as her former classmates at University High.

“When I’m here walking the halls and stuff, (it's) way different that when I was a student here,” Conde said.

Over the summer, Conde left for boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia filled with nerves. Then she went to infantry school, eventually getting her blue cords.

“Was it hard? Yes, it was hard,” she replied to one curious student.

Staff Sgt. Jovanny Cruz, who recruited Conde, said he feels like a proud father.

“She completed what most can’t complete," he said. “As she tells me, it was 52 females that were in infantry school with her, and only 18 graduated.”

Conde credits Cruz for motivating her.

“He was a huge push for me to do it,” she said. “I wanted to be part of something that would change me, mentally and physically.”

Up next for Conde: On Jan. 4, Conde will head to airborne school to learn to be a paratrooper. She’ll eventually head to her unit in Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“So many things during training, I thought I couldn’t do, but I did. I just have to keep that same mentality.”

As for the students, she wanted to make sure they remembered one thing:

“One thing I want to do the most is tell others about this, and tell others about the change they can make, too," Conde said. "Not just for the country, or their family, but for themselves.”

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