Staff Sgt. Patricia King became the U.S. Army's first transgender infantryman this year when she came out to her commanders. King, pictured outside Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, has been serving in the Army for 16 years. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
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Staff Sgt. Patricia King became the U.S. Army's first transgender infantryman this year when she came out to her commanders. King, pictured outside Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, has been serving in the Army for 16 years. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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A transgender Fort Carson soldier said Tuesday she's "elated" that the Pentagon is moving toward acceptance of transgender troops.

Staff Sgt. Patricia King said the Pentagon study announced Monday is similar to steps that led to the acceptance of gay troops, and will likely opening the door to transgender service.

"I would like to thank the secretary of defense and congratulate him on an outstanding decision," King said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday ordered the six-month study on open transgender military service. The secretary said the study starts with the assumption that transgender troops will be welcomed in the ranks.

"The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions," Carter said in a statement. "At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they're able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite."

While transgender troops are now barred from service, King, who changed her name earlier this year, told commanders in March that she would live as a woman.

The 34-year-old Iraq and Afghanistan veteran works in the headquarters of Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division and said leaders from the post gave her the first word about the possible policy change on Monday.

"My company commander called me," King said.

King said the Army has welcomed her as a woman, and commanders haven't moved to force her discharge, as is now allowed. This year the Army made it far more difficult to kick out transgender soldiers, requiring Pentagon approval of such moves.

King may live as a woman, but she still serves as a man, complying with male standards of dress and appearance. She said she will remain in compliance with those regulations as the Pentagon mulls the policy change.

"At this moment it does not change," she said.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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