FORT SILL, Okla., March 30, 2017 -- Marny Skindrud was promoted to lieutenant colonel Sept. 1, to become the highest ranking active-duty female field artillery officer in the Army."I was stunned knowing just the selection rates," said Skindrud, Army Targeting Center joint integration officer.Making the promotion was the honor to her; not being a female making the promotion.Like other "female firsts," piloting in new lanes of history doesn't feel awkward to Skindrud because her way of navigating is the only way she knows."I just try to see myself as a Soldier and a leader. Yes, I know I'm female, other people know I'm female, but I don't really differentiate between those roles," said Skindrud.She shares this mentality with Col. Andrew Preston, a former 214th Field Artillery Brigade commander, who told his troops he didn't have female leaders and male leaders.He had leaders.When the Army opened up higher positions to females in field artillery, Preston asked Skindrud if she was interested in leaving logistics to lead Redleg Soldiers."Marny was the executive officer for our brigade support battalion when I took command of the brigade in June 2013, and immediately impressed me with her knowledge and presentation skills. After a month or so in command, I learned that she had once been a field artillery officer -- even commanded a battery or two, but was forced to transfer out due to a lack of opportunities for females at higher ranks," said the colonel."I approached Marny about transferring back into the field artillery, not only because I saw clear potential for her to excel in the branch, but also because I believed it would send a great message to the junior female officers who aspired to serve at higher ranks and responsibility," said Preston.
Skindrud knew the scrutiny she faced before she changed back to FA, but didn't let the pressure of becoming a "female first" stop her from doing a job.She said her upbringing by her Norwegian mother and being raised on a farm instilled that type of confidence in her abilities."On the farm there were never any boy jobs or girl jobs, and my parents never told me that I couldn't do anything because I was a girl. That was important," said Skindrud.She has made a habit of taking on challenges. Almost as impressive as her military career are the myriad other activities she has tackled.From college soccer, national-level tug-of-war, jiu jitsu in the European championships, playing on a men's rugby team, weightlifting competitions, snowboarding competitions, joining and becoming an instructor in hula and her latest adventure, roller derby, Skindrud is not afraid of new frontiers.She doesn't boast about her activities. She quickly offers up a smile and laugh to others, but does not discuss her typical two-a-day workouts five days a week, or the aches and pains that come with them. Instead, she shows up to work, and that practice has rewarded her.She recognizes the sacrifices of women before her and is thankful that discrimination has not affected her path. The closest she felt any ignorance regarding her gender was hearing that Iraqis believed the women on the mobile transition team before her were only on the team to service the men."I know there's people out there that have crazy views on females in the military, but I don't feel like I've ever been specifically discriminated against as a female. As soon as I'm working alongside (male Soldiers) and they see that I'm putting in the same amount of effort as everyone else, I feel like it calms the waters."Skindrud understands her position as a role model, but she doesn't believe any suggestion of being an example applies just to junior ranking women."There's a lot of male leaders that I admire their qualities," she said. "That's what I want; someone who wants me to be their mentor because they admire the qualities that I show."She said the Army integrating women in the ranks is a great first step, but information is often still segregated. She gave an example of a uniform inspection when she was a younger officer. The male inspecting uniforms dismissed her because he didn't know what her uniform was supposed to look like.
"If I was doing a uniform inspection I would be expected to know what the male and female [regulations] should be. Integration is not just a bunch of females getting together. It's males and females sitting down and discussing this is what needs to happen here, and this is what needs to happen here. Integration should be integrated."