Stepping up; female mechanic loads tank during gunnery
July 8, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (July 8, 2014) -- In the Army's combat maneuver forces there is a common understanding that anyone could be called upon to step up and fill someone else's role at a moment's notice. Fire team leaders may need to lead the squad or a tank gunner might be called upon to command a tank.
Pfc. Terrianna Martin, a tank mechanic with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division doesn't think that duty should be based on military occupational specialty or gender. When she learned that several tank crews in her company were short on personnel during the battalion's rotation to Germany for exercise Combined Resolve II she went straight to one of the tank commanders and volunteered to help.
"I heard one of the crews was down a loader so I went to the [tank commander], Staff Sgt. Dupree, and asked him, 'can I load for you,'" said Martin, a native of Albany, Georgia.
Dupree, a tank commander in 2nd Platoon, D Company, 2nd BN, 5th Cav Regt., initially thought she was joking. After a few more jokes and light banter, Martin convinced Dupree that she was serious.
"I made a deal with her. I told her I would train her, but she had to meet all the standards that everyone else has to, because we have some tests and things we have to do before gunnery. I told her that if she passed the test I would let her go on to gunnery," said Dupree.
Dupree, a native of Richmond, California, took Martin under his wing and began training her on the gunnery skills she would need to be successful. The gunnery skills test is a comprehensive list of requirements in which every tank crew member must demonstrate their proficiency before they are cleared for firing live rounds during gunnery. Some of the tasks include: loading and clearing the machine guns on the tank, crew evacuation drills, emergency actions, loading a main gun round, and performing routine maintenance checks.
"The only thing that concerned me, and it concerns me with everybody, is getting through the [gunnery skills test], which is the safety aspect of it," said Capt. John Flanagan, commander of D Co., 2nd BN, 5th Cav Regt. "Whether it's a loader, a gunner, a driver or a commander, including myself, if you can't get through [GST] safely then it means you're unsafe on the tank."
Flanagan has been with D Co. through several major training events and, as the commander, he cares most about whether or not his Soldiers are able to safely and effectively accomplish the tasks they are given; it doesn't matter whether they're a mechanic, a medic, or an admin clerk.
"It really wasn't different than anybody else...she was doing all the things that a loader needs to do to help a tank crew qualify," said Flanagan. "We teach cross-training at all levels, it's a team effort. So, whether it's loading a tank or doing maintenance, everybody has to be ready to jump in and help wherever they can; that's the attitude we have in the company."
Dupree trained Martin for weeks prior to the gunnery portion of Combined Resolve II. He drilled her on all the tasks associated with the loader's M240 machine gun and then moved on to loading dummy tank rounds. Dupree said Martin was a quick learner and soon started out-performing some of the other loaders in the company.
When it came time for live bullets, Martin was nervous but she credited a lot of her success to the support and motivation she received from her company.
"They never doubted me, they always kept me motivated. I think that's what helped me achieve what I did," said Martin.
Martin's family was behind her every step of the way as well.
During a phone call with her mother, Martin expressed concern about whether or not she would be able to see this mission through to the end. Her mother quickly dispelled her doubts and bolstered her confidence. She told her she was going to do fine and that she was very proud of her.
Martin was first through the breach in her company. She volunteered and committed herself to something she wanted to do and set a great example for others to follow. Martin and her tank crew scored 727 out of a possible 1,000 points on their qualifying tank table and she shot like a pro with the loader's M240 machine gun.
"Nobody said anything about getting on a crew until Martin," said Dupree. "Once everyone got word that Martin was trying to get on a crew, then other guys started trying to get on other crews."
Martin looks forward to more training with the tank crew in the future. There will be plenty of opportunities for her in the coming months as the Lancer Battalion continues to train. For now, though, she's most excited about being included in a long, time-honored tradition within the armor ranks: her first new pair of tanker boots.