By Staff Sgt. Tomora ClarkMarch 29, 2016
This article is the second story in a two-part series illustrating the roles women have in the military: Part 2 focuses on Pvt. Lashonda Ivy, one of the Army's first female combat engineers.
FORT HOOD, Texas - As the sunrise kissed the once dark skies with warm, orange and red hues, an 18-year-old female Soldier climbed the steep mountain, shaking off the chill of the cold, desert air.
Her unit was tasked with holding key terrain from the enemy force's advancement. It was the last defensive position in the training exercise.
Her task was to shoot and disable the "enemy's equipment." Not only was she a new Soldier who just graduated from advanced individualized training, but she was the only female conducting this mission in a male-dominated unit.
Pvt. Lashonda Ivy, a combat engineer with 43rd Combat Engineer Company, Regimental Engineer Squadron "Pioneer," 3rd Cavalry Regiment, is among the first group of women to acquire this MOS since the Army opened the job to female Soldiers in June 2015. Ivy is one of four females who arrived to the unit earlier this year.
The Army's current implementation plan to fully integrate female Soldiers into combat jobs who can effectively perform the physical demands of their occupation, gives men and women the same opportunity to succeed regardless of gender.
This new Army plan helped open doors for Ivy as a combat engineer, she said.
"I knew I wanted to join right after graduating high school," said Ivy, the first member of her Family to join the military. "I joined for financial stability and the educational benefits."
According to military.com, combat engineers build fighting positions; they conduct route clearance with the use of explosives; they conduct site reconnaissance; they detect improvised explosive devises or mines with equipment while in combat situations.
The goal of combat engineers is to help the mobility of friendly forces while impeding on the mobility of the enemy forces, also known as counter-mobility.
"I watched a video of [the MOS] on YouTube; I thought the MOS would be fun," said the Merrillville, Indiana native. "My recruiter asked me if I wanted to blow stuff up, so I picked this MOS. Then [the recruiters] told me after I picked my job that I was making history; I didn't know females weren't in combat jobs yet."
But how would her new unit react to her joining the team when they were only accustomed to male combat engineers?
Staff Sgt. Timothy Williams, Ivy's squad leader, said they knew Ivy was coming to the unit, and talked to all of the male Soldiers prior to her arrival.
"She is a Soldier first and foremost," said Williams. "She wears the same uniform, the same flag on her right shoulder and will be one of your battle buddies; she will be treated with the same respect as any other Soldier coming to the unit."
Although she arrived to the unit only five days before the regiment's National Training Center rotation, Ivy said, "My platoon was really supportive in helping me learning my newly-acquired job."
During her first training with the unit at NTC at Fort Irwin, California, Ivy learned more about her job from her current leadership than she did while in AIT at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, she said.
"NTC was a great training experience for me; I learned so much more about my MOS from my leaders than I did while at the schoolhouse," said Ivy.
"She's a good Soldier with a willingness to learn," said Sgt. Eugene Jones, Ivy's team leader and direct supervisor. "As for her being a female, there's no difference in her performance from her male counterparts; she completed the same training as everyone else."
Ivy gained trust in not only her own abilities, but also in her fellow Soldiers, she said.
"The other Soldiers in the unit are like my brothers," said Ivy.
"We all get along great; we haven't had any issues since private Ivy or any of the other female combat engineers arrived to the unit, in which, always helps boost morale," said Williams.
Ivy is the first member in her Family to join the military.
"They are proud of me and my decision to join," said Ivy.
Ivy said, she's never been outside of the U.S. before, and her Family is scared about her upcoming deployment to Afghanistan-especially since she has a combat MOS.
However, she isn't apprehensive about the deployment one bit she said, and is prepared for the experience because of her recent NTC training and her upcoming deployment training.
In mid- April, Ivy is slotted to attend Route clearance and Reconnaissance course, otherwise known as R2C2. It's a combat engineer specific schooling designed to learn the capabilities of detecting, marking, reporting and neutralizing counter-improvise explosive device in efforts to secure a safe route for transport.
"This is a common course that [combat engineers] attend before deployment to familiarize ourselves with equipment and clearance techniques," said Williams.
"I'm looking forward to deploying with my unit because we've formed a close bond through training, and I know they have my back," she said.
Ivy said she plans to stay in the military for at least five years to become a noncommissioned officer, and once she attains the rank of sergeant, Ivy plans to attend Ranger and Sapper school.
Ivy said, with the help of her leadership and a positive attitude, she knows she will be able to go far. She hopes her story can inspire other women to join combat jobs within the Army and shatter the glass ceiling for women in the Army.
As for current advice to any female Soldier joining the Army and going into a combat MOS, Ivy said, "Always be positive and motivated."