By T. Anthony BellJuly 11, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (July 11, 2013) -- The Army Artillery Mechanic is no longer a male-only military occupational specialty.
Two Soldiers -- Pfc. Jessica Jones and Pfc. Angelika Jansen -- will be the first females to hold the military occupational specialty, or MOS, when they graduate from the U.S. Army Ordnance School here Tuesday.
The 15-week course they attended, also known as MOS 91P, is one of six the Army opened to women last year as part of an effort to loosen the combat exclusion provisions under the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule.
As artillery mechanics, the two active duty Soldiers will perform maintenance and recovery on self-propelled cannons such as the M109A6 Paladin, a weapons system that can be located on the frontlines of a combat theater.
Jones, the daughter of an Air Force retiree, downplayed her ground-breaking achievement.
"I just look at it as something else under my belt," said the 24-year-old. "I didn't try to make this a big deal because I didn't want to put myself on a high pedestal. It's just another challenge I've faced, something I've done that I never thought I could have."
Jansen, a native of Garland, Texas, seemed more excited about her "first."
"This is a step forward for women," said the 23-year-old daughter of an Army veteran. "I find it pretty awesome. But at the same time, I'm ready to move past the honeymoon stage and get into my work; get the show rolling."
Several female Soldiers have preceded the women in the integration of previously male-only MOSs during the past year. They include several who earned MOS designations at the U.S. Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Okla., and others who attended the Ordnance School course at Fort Benning, Ga., where they earned the titles of M1 Abrams Tank System and Bradley Fighting Vehicle System maintainers.
Thomas Gollhardt, chief of the track division that teaches the 91P course, said he thinks the Army is taking the right steps toward integration. He also said his division's transition to teaching females in the course has been made smoother by the fact that another division MOS, the Tracked Vehicle Repairer Course, has had females for years.
"We haven't had any issues at all in the last 12 weeks," he said. "They (Jansen and Jones) have functioned just as well as any Soldier."
The two Soldiers didn't know exactly where they were to be assigned at press time but said they are anxious to move forward. Jones said she wants to fulfill her contract and eventually transition to the Air Force and retire from its ranks. Jansen, an aspiring percussionist and musician, said her deceased father's legacy inspires further service, and she plans to stay in the Army "as long as she can."
Master Sgt. Charles Lanns, the track division's chief instructor, said the two Soldiers have good attitudes about the Army and about their jobs -- indications they will do well in the field.
"I think they'll have nothing but success," he said. "They want to do their job. That's all we can ask."
The Army's integration strategy includes assessments after the women have logged six months in their specialties to further examine the suitability of the combat exclusion rules.
Integration efforts on behalf of the Army are part of a larger Department of Defense plan that will open all jobs to women by 2016. It has already opened 14,000 positions in previously closed maneuver elements