By Sgt. Leticia SamuelsMarch 25, 2014
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (March 25, 2014) -- Four female National Guard Soldiers graduated from the Artillery School at the 139th Regimental Training Institute, at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 19, 2014.
Spc. Nicol Vargas, Spc. Veronica Kramer, Spc. Autumn Aderhold, and Spc. Brandy Brasted are from different states across the U.S., and are the first National Guardsmen to complete the predominantly male Artillery School, but will definitely not be the last.
"I have to do what I have to do to get done with the mission," said Vargas "all this time working on the [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System], and every time it has been like a fresh new experience."
"They're excited, they're motivated, determined to learn, their asking more questions than a normal student would. They have very positive attitudes," said Kevin Hale, 139th RTI Field Artillery Instructor.
These 10 students attending the class all have alternate military occupational specialties, known as MOSs, but have all decided that they would like to be closer to the fight. Therefore they all decided to attend the reclassification course, which will change their primary MOS to a field artillery MOS.
"It's something different and more fun. We were behind the desk and we wanted to get out there and do something better. We're active," Aderhold and Bradsted both explained.
This 18-day course gives students 40 hours of classroom time to explain all the concepts, theories, and mechanics of being a Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MRLS, crewmember. The course is designed to equip students with the knowledge of how to calculate locations manually and electronically, the proper way to handle ammunition, how to operate the main gun, missile, and rocket systems, along with artillery tactics and battle strategies.
"The ladies have been able to complete any and everything that has been asked of them," said Hale.
This occupation primarily focuses on supporting infantry and tank units while supplementing cannon artillery in combat. The other 120 hours of this course are all hands-on training and allow students actual time with the vehicles to put all of the classroom concepts into place.
"It was a lot when we started, but now it's not nearly as much as they made us think it was," Kramer admits. "Hands-on training is always so much better," said Aderhold.
Service members have to maintain, supervise and operate the M142 HIMARS, the newest wheeled chassis light version of the MLRS that carries a single six-pack of rockets or one ATACMS missile, on the Army's family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, or FMTV, five-ton truck, and can launch the entire MLRS family of munitions.
"I like downloading the truck, but I like running the HIMARS too," said Kramer.
M270-A1 Self Propelled Loader Launcher is the tracked version of the M14, and can be operated with the same techniques and can launch up to 12 rockets in less than 60 seconds. To operate these massive systems, crews work in orders of three (the driver, gunner, and the section chief), but during training all cross train in each area to gain experience doing all three jobs needed in this three-Soldier crew.
"You Soldiers sitting in these seats are the future of the National Guard," said Command Sgt. Maj. John Swart, North Carolina National Guard Command senior enlisted adviser. "It's important that we work as a team."
Students are also taught how to establish launcher resupply and supply points, because Soldiers are be responsible for pods of ammunition and also have to be able to resupply their own ammunition along with other artillery elements in the field.
"I love it all the way, and the males are so accepting. It takes them a little bit to come around, but after you're there for a bit, they don't treat you any differently, and I love that they don't treat us any differently," Vargas and Kramer both explained.
These four female Soldiers have added to the stepping stones being used to lead women into historically male-dominated career fields in the Army.
"The guys have accepted them into the field artillery world, and they work well as a team, as one Army, as it should be," Hale replied.