In early February 2021, Uruguayan Army Lieutenant Colonel Ana Lucas assumed the post of commander of the Florida Battalion, becoming the first woman to command an infantry unit in the history of the Uruguayan Army. She stands out in her professional career as a paratrooper, as well as for her participation in peacekeeping missions, such as the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO, in French). Lt. Col. Lucas will command 249 service members of different ranks, leading the legislative branch’s security unit. Diálogo spoke with Lt. Col. Lucas to learn more about her professional career and the challenges of her new position.
Diálogo: What did your designation as the first woman to command an infantry unit represent?
Uruguayan Army Lieutenant Colonel Ana Lucas, commander of the Florida Battalion: I was very proud, and it was an enormous responsibility to be appointed as commander of the 1st Florida Infantry Battalion, leading a historic unit and the oldest in the Infantry branch. [The unit dates back to 1829.]
Diálogo: How did your career begin in the Uruguayan Army?
Lt. Col. Lucas: It began in 1999, when I entered the Military School and graduated as ensign in December 2002.
Diálogo: What are the main challenges that you have faced during your professional career?
Lt. Col. Lucas: The main challenges have been the specializations and the peacekeeping missions: I am a military paratrooper; completing this course was challenging at the time because there were no female paratrooper combatant officers, so if I got authorized and obtained the specialty, I would open the doors for other women. In part, it was a source of pressure and a great responsibility, and I have been a paratrooper since 2008. The same happened with the Command Course (Special Forces), which I managed to get into, but I was not able to obtain the specialty, because the course was canceled due to the death of a colleague. And later, both peacekeeping missions [two terms in Congo in 2006 and in 2010].
Diálogo: What was your role in MONUSCO?
Lt. Col. Lucas: In 2006, I was a second lieutenant; I was section head of the Delta Combat Team. I was in charge of 43 men; with them, I did military gym training, mechanized and helicopter patrols, and all the missions that the Uruguay IV Battalion assigned to us. That is the year that elections took place in Congo, so we worked very hard, and I liked that a lot, as it enhanced my leadership among them. In 2010, I was a first lieutenant and served as executive officer for the Delta Combat Team. I managed the logistics for my team, and I was deployed in the Busurungi jungle with 43 men under my lead. Our mission was to DDR (Disarm, Demobilize, and Repatriate) a rebel group that had burned villages in the area and raped several women and girls. The mission lasted 21 days, and we were under fire for two nights. Thankfully, I was able return with all my men, safe and sound.
Diálogo: Do you think your new position might encourage other women to join the army?
Lt. Col. Lucas: Possibly, yes. I think the examples that show positive results after so much sacrifice, study, training, dedication, and perseverance are encouraging to follow.
Diálogo: What message would you like to send to military women on active duty in the armed forces?
Lt. Col. Lucas: To believe in themselves, to never say “it can’t be done,” and to train, specialize, and professionalize… And to persevere.