Women Soldiers added to Sill combat unit
October 10, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- On a hot Monday morning at Fort Sill, Pfc. Leanne Wilson is under the cab of her assigned M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System conducting routine preventive maintenance checks and services.
She has only been in the unit a few months, yet she has fallen into the battle rhythm with ease.
For Wilson, it's all in a day's work making history as one of the first enlisted females in field artillery.
"Field artillery was the only combat job open for women so I took it," said Wilson, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery. "I want to pay it forward for all those who have served before me and protected me and my freedoms."
Wilson is among the five enlisted women field artillery Soldiers who are the first women in 2-4th FA.
Integrating women into field artillery has been a slow process. They have served as officers in the FA branch since 1978, however, enlisted women Soldiers had to wait.
"Pfc. Wilson has already stood out and been to the promotion board. I think she's going to have a successful career. She's a superstar in her platoon already," said Capt. Harvey Shaw, B Battery commander.
Previously, women field artillery officers have served in FA, but only in positions at brigade or higher, mainly as staff officers.
That changed May 14, 2012, when the Army began implementing the new De-partment of Defense (DoD) policy that opened up an additional 3 percent of Army jobs to women.
That left 30 percent of Army jobs still restricted to men. On Jan. 24, Leon Panetta, Defense secretary, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced the rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women. This required the DoD plan to remove gender-based barriers to service by 2016.
It was the conclusion of these events that resulted in nine women enlisted Soldiers graduating Ad-vanced Individual Training in May with military occupational specialties of: 13M (Multiple Launch Rocket System Crewmember), 13P (Fire Direction Specialist) and 13R (Firefinder Radar Operator) to the field artillery branch.
Pvt. Brittany Lyman was among these new AIT graduates serving in B/2-4th FA's ammo section. Despite her limited experience, she placed as one of the top ammo crewmembers in the battalion's August "best by test," a weeklong event that examined Soldiers individually and as teams to determine the unit's top teams.
"So far I have enjoyed being in 2-4 because there is a lot of physical work that is challenging for me," said Lyman. "At first, the Soldiers seemed to be very careful about everything around me, but now they trust me and have loosened up and treat me like everyone else."
Lyman said she had some reservations about coming to the unit after hearing the rumors of sexual assault and harassment in the mainstream media and from other women Soldiers in AIT. She was relieved to find that this was not the case, rather the unit placed a high priority on preventing harassment and assault.
"Arriving at the unit was nothing like we expected. It wasn't like we were females and they were males ... we were all just Soldiers. And, that's exactly how we're treated. Everything fell together very well," said Lyman.
"The integration of females is still a new concept for us here, however it's business as usual. After more than 20 years of only having males in our ranks I was honestly a little worried, however, things are moving right along. They know their jobs and what is expected of them; it's almost like they have been here the whole time," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Snow, battalion CSM.
A critical aspect of training in the battalion includes participating field training exercises.
Soldiers remain in training areas for a number of days and rehearse realistic combat scenarios in field environments with only their gear and tents. These rehearsals are integral in preparing Soldiers for combat and refining their occupation specialty skill set.
"I'm comfortable treating female Soldiers exactly like male Soldiers, and sometimes that means being hard on them," said Shaw. "The females coming in don't want this special treatment; they want to be treated like everyone else."
"It's pretty amazing to know I am leading the way for other females who want to join a combat branch," said Wilson. "It's also exciting that we get to shoot missiles that blow targets up."
Maj. Keith Williams, battalion operations officer, said it's important for Soldiers to remember as professionals, when asked if the Army is a good place for women to serve, they can recommend the organization without hesitancy, as a great opportunity for their daughters.
"Personally, I would be confident in sending my daughter to serve in 2-4th FA," he said.