When Megan McNutley, a 22-year-old cadet at the United States Military Academy here, graduates this spring, she won’t be heading off to a conventional unit at an Army installation. Instead, she’ll start her Army career spending a year in Dublin, Ireland, studying international development at University College. She’s among a small minority of West Point students who are “breaking the routine,” she said.

“We’re getting away from the classic trajectory of what an Army career looks like,” she told Military Times. “People like us are already pushing the envelope. You need some officers to do that.” But McNutley is already cognizant that the nontraditional assignment may put her career at risk if she falls behind her peers in fulfilling the Army’s rigid requirements for advancement. “The Army will try to move some things around so I can still be with my year group. I’ll have less platoon leader time, but then at the career captains’ course mark, hopefully I’ll be back with the class of 2016,” she said, referring to the normal progression for the first five years of a junior officer’s career.

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Image courtesy of DoD