By Staff Sgt. Christopher McCulloughJanuary 26, 2014
FORT IRWIN, Calif. (Jan. 26, 2014) -- Every generation has its pioneers, its trailblazers; persons who pave the way for the next generation. The Army is no exception.
In the predominately male discipline of field artillery, there have been a few firsts for females. They have been female Fire Direction Officers in Mobile Launch Rocket System teams and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System crews before, but never have they been in a M777A1 Howitzer Cannon unit.
That is until 2nd Lt. Taylor Cardosi arrived at 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Cardosi, 22, a native of Stillwater, Mass., is a fire direction officer, or FDO, working in the 1st Battalion, 37th Artillery Regiment Battalion Fire Direction Center, and the first female to do so.
"We get fire missions from our battalion, which come from the maneuvers section," said Cardosi. "We process the data and send it to the guns."
Cardosi's appointment as FDO is hot on the heels of the Department of Defense's decision to eventually open all military jobs to females. However, while some positions remain closed as the Department of Defense works out details, the job of FDO opened up only days after Cardosi's entry into active duty, Dec. 27, 2012.
"I was 100 percent surprised when I got here," said Cardosi. "I just showed up and I immediately went to the field."
Cardosi's admission into the largely male-dominated field is no surprise to those who know her. All her life Cardosi has worked hard to succeed in activities not usually associated with young ladies, beginning with her decision to quit ballet.
"I told my mom I hated it and wanted to do karate like my brother was," said Cardosi. "My parents let me choose whatever I wanted."
Her perseverance continued into college, where she not only earned a double major in political science and women in gender studies, but she also enrolled in the U.S. Army Reserve Officers Training Corps.
"When I kind of heard about the ROTC aspect I knew that it was perfect for me," Cardosi said. "Then I went to school, I got a scholarship and tried to enter the Army. At the time I didn't even know what I would be doing in the military. I didn't have any idea of the jobs that were available or ones that I would be interested in doing either. I really didn't decide until my junior year that I wanted to do field artillery."
While at Bucknell University, in Bucknell, Penn., Cardosi was an essential member of her row team, something she compares to the Army.
"I had a strong team and the Army is like that," Cardosi said. "You have your squad or your team, your teammates or your buddies. In rowing, there are eight people in a boat; you have to combine them to do your best. Same thing (in the Army). Your guys have to watch each other or people get hurt."
Her sense of teamwork has won over the Soldiers in her unit; especially those in her platoon. That's been easy to do when Cardosi repeatedly excels at getting her platoon online and firing first such as when at National Training Center her platoon was last on the line and first to finish shooting, said her platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Guerard, a native of Worchester, Mass.
"I think he's probably one of the best platoon sergeants in the Army," Cardosi said. "He knows his job and he pretty much took me under his wing, because I really didn't know anything about artillery units that much. He just treats me like any other officer. It's not really a male or female thing. He treats me with the same respect."
Guerard said his platoon was a little apprehensive at first because the idea of a female artilleryman was something new to them, but Cardosi's work ethic at Yakima Training Center, Wash., during the brigade's training exercise there in October, showed him and his Soldiers that there was no difference between Cardosi and her male counterparts.
"She strives to do great things," Guerard said. "She's already setting herself apart from her peers. Absolutely there is no difference. She's just another one of the team."
While there are sure to be detractors from Cardosi's successful assumption of duties as a FDO, her perseverance has helped her join the likes of other female firsts such as Sally Ride, the first U.S. female in space, Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, and the countless others who came before her. Now it is her turn to pave the way for those who will follow in her footsteps.
"I like to think that I want this as a career," said Cardosi. "I'm patient enough to wait and when that time arrives prove that I should have been there all along. For now that's the plan; make it a career. Become a battalion commander, a brigade commander, a general."