KELSO, Wash. -- Being in the Army has been a dream for Kelso High School junior Kali Tokuoka ever since she was 11 years old.
Now at 17, she's really starting to consider what her future will look like. She sees her future in a combat role with the Army.
“There's a lot of people who don't want me to go in but are very supportive of it. They're very scared for me,” she said.
A combat position means more risk. Up until December 2015, women in the military were not allowed to take on combat roles.
“I decided on fire control specialist,” said Tokuoka.
She'll basically take in data, and tell people where to fire.
Tokuoka is the first young woman to enlist in a combat position in the Kelso/Longview area. Staff Sergeant Cody Ledbetter said she's also one of the first in the Pacific Northwest.
“All of my life I was told, me being a girl, that I couldn't do certain things,” said Tokuoka. “So it's kind of something to prove to myself, but not only to myself but to other people out there that you're capable of doing anything that you put your mind to.”
“It's very motivating to see young people like that step up,” said Ledbetter.
He said Tokuoka already stands out, especially when it comes to her level of fitness.
“I'd call her a beast,” he said. “She goes out there and outperforms some of the guys.”
Tokuoka said one of the main reasons she's pursuing a combat position in the Army is to be an example to other girls. But she also has family in the military who have inspired her. She also wants a little adventure.
“I want to travel and see the world,” said Tokukoka.
“She could be sent to Korea, Japan, maybe here stateside, [There are] pretty much endless opportunities for her,” said Ledbetter.
They’re opportunities Tokuoka hopes other girls will realize they have too.
“Anything's possible,” she said.
Tokuoka plans to complete her senior year at Kelso High School. She said she’ll ship out to basic training right after that, in the summer of 2018.
Staff at the Army Career Center in Longview said after Tokuoka enlisted last week, another young woman is supposed to enlist this week in the same combat position. She is also a junior at Kelso High.