Female Soldiers step into new role
Spc. Crisma Albarran, of Orland, Calif., detaches an ammunition case from its mount after a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flight over Iraq, March 14, 2010. Albarran with Task Force 38's B Company, 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, volunteered for the job as door gunner prior to her second deployment to Iraq, and has flown more than 100 hours toward her door gunner certification. During her first Iraqi deployment in 2007 she was a petroleum supply specialist with the 3rd Infantry Division.

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Two female Soldiers with Task Force 38, 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, exemplified the "we can do it" motto of women's history month.

Spc. Crisma Albarran and Spc. Jessica Sprung, stationed here, volunteered as UH-60 Black Hawk door gunners, a role primarily occupied by male Soldiers.

"The majority of door gunners are dominated by males, and when you have a female come into the job it reminds us that we're not the only ones who can do the job," said Sgt. Daniel Rice, a crew chief and standardization instructor from New Ipswich, N.H. "They (women) can do the job just as well and in some cases better than us."

"It's excellent," said Rice of teaching Albarran the ins and outs of her new job.

Albarran, who joined the Army in June 2006, was a petroleum supply specialist in the battalion's E Company prior to volunteering to be a door gunner with B Company in October. Since the unit arrived in Iraq in December, she's flown more than 100 hours progressing toward her door gunner certification.

"The adrenaline rush of being in the sky to flying over Baghdad; I wanted to be a little extreme instead of being outside the aircraft," said Albarran, a resident of Orland, Calif.

Albarran served in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division in 2007 and 2008 as a petroleum supply specialist and fueled helicopters inside protective barriers during her last deployment. She relished her new job, but didn't realize the extent of a door gunner's tasks.

"I underestimated the responsibilities of a door gunner; I just thought it was just sitting behind the weapon and flying," said Albarran.

Yet it was more than that. A gunner's responsibilities included passenger and cargo care, pre- and post-flight duties, crew coordination and weapons maintenance.

"We have to make sure our passengers are secure, and we can't have their bags flying around unsecure."

She also mentioned the passengers' importance to door gunners.

"They're our primary responsibility; we don't want to lose track of them," Albarran said.

Albarran also showed a great appreciation for the new group of Soldiers to which she belonged, and the guidance they provided.

"I like interacting with everyone, and everybody has been great teaching me about the aircraft, the UH-60," she said.

Sprung, of Buffalo, Wyo., and a C Company supply specialist also had altruistic reasons for volunteering as a door gunner.

"It' won't be my primary job, but it's to help out the air crews," she said. "It's a good way to help out especially during a deployment when everybody is stressed out and flying a lot of hours. You can step in there and relieve a little of stress and give them a break once in a while."

Like Albarran she saw the new opportunity as a new adventure.

"It's pretty exciting to be part of the air crew," she said. "Becoming a door gunner for me is to help them out; do something different."

Still, the two female specialists had no reservations taking on a job dominated by men.

"It's pretty cool stepping in that role as one of the only females in the company," said Sprung.

Albarran agreed.

"At first I didn't have an issue with it. It was the male Soldiers who had to make little adjustments," Albarran said. "I've done well fitting in so far."

The women door gunners fit in and did their jobs, just like their male counterparts. And they exemplified the "we can do it" attitude of women's history month.

Page last updated Thu March 18th, 2010 at 06:14