Sgt. 1st Class Ella Pearson with the U.S. Army Reserve's 344th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, based in Tallahassee, Florida, saw the need for mentorship for young female Soldiers who held the military occupational specialty (MOS) of 12B or combat engineer in her company.
This was one of the reasons that she decided to transition from her supply specialist MOS into a 12B and in the process became one of the first U.S. Army Reserve senior noncommissioned officers to reclassify in the 12B field. She was among two female Soldiers among the class of 20 to graduate the two-week Reserve Component reclassification course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, March 24, 2017.
Oklahoma native Pearson, who now calls Ponce de Leon, Florida, home, said she has always been impressed by combat engineers and credited previous female combat engineers for "paving the way."
"With that being said, there is always the need for that female to look up to … that you can inspire to be and help you with anything you need assistance with," explained Pearson. "Because we do need those female senior leaders within that MOS to help those junior females who are coming into it.
The company has five female combat engineers, including Pearson, and another female Soldier who is going to transition to 12B.
Pearson classifies her graduation date as a "date of accomplishment."
"It wasn't an easy course at all," she said.
It is known fact that a 12B Soldier will perform a variety of construction and demolition tasks in supporting infantry units that are both physically and mentally demanding. Prior to being awarded the MOS, Soldiers must successfully complete a variety of High Physical Demand Tests, which include finishing a 12-mile Ruck March with a ruck that weighs 35 pounds in five hours, carrying and emplacing a H6, 40-pound cratering charge and forming a two-man team to lift and carry a 206-pound Rocking Roller in the construction of a Bailey Bridge.
Pearson, who finished the 12-mile Ruck March in 3 hours, 44 minutes, pointed out how important it was to have situational awareness and mental conditioning.
"You have got to really know the instruments you use in order to perform your job to the best of your ability to keep yourself safe and your Soldiers safe and everyone safe around you," Pearson noted.
The task that challenged Pearson the most was using the AN/PSS-14 mine detector.
"Depending on which tone you are listening to, you have to really pay attention and you really have to understand how to use that particular piece of equipment in order to identify exactly where the center of the mine is," said Pearson.
Being precise as in learning how to tie different knots in the rigging of various charges was what Pearson enjoyed the most.
The reason she said was because now she can bring her knowledge back to her combat engineers in her company.
She explained that it has been rewarding to her to gain first-hand knowledge of being a combat engineer and why they do the things they do.
As an Active Army Soldier, Pearson gained nursing knowledge. She joined the Active Army as a Licensed Practical Nurse in 1997.
She said she joined the Army because she wanted to live by its values.
The married mother of two young children left the Army in 2004 as a staff sergeant "to become a parent."
For the next nine years, Pearson would hold various nursing positions, including working in ambulatory clinics and skill nursing facilities. She also was a licensed assisted living administrator for almost four years and served as a government contract staffing coordinator. In her latter position, she staffed four different clinics that the company was awarded service contracts for.
Pearson received the Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service for setting up a Class VII supply room for a clinic that was "stood up from the ground" up while serving as a staff Department of Defense nurse.
While attending college after her discharge, she received Bachelor of Science in Health Administration in 2007, her Masters of Health Administration minor in Informatics in 2009 and Doctorate of Health Administration in 2014.
She joined America's Army Reserve as a supply specialist in October, 2013, as a staff sergeant.
She said she waited for her children to mature before joining the U.S. Army Reserve.
Her current civilian occupation is a Market director for Humana serving as the Northern North Florida Provider Engagement Director. Her territory reaches from Pensacola, Fla., to Daytona Beach, Fla.
"I focus on the qualify performance education of health care providers who are contracted with Humana," said Pearson.
She has to have even more focus in her new role as a Reservist. She was named the company's acting first sergeant shortly after returning from the reclassification school.
Master Sgt. Daniel Etherton, the company's former first sergeant, said he recommended her for the position.
"She was my right hand when I was the first sergeant," said Etherton. "She is a highly motivated NCO with incredible time management skills."
"I chose her because of her leadership ability and being tactically proficient" continued Etherton.
Pearson's goal as a first sergeant is to take care of her Soldiers and ensure that all of them come home if the company is deployed.
Until then, she is slated to go to the Senior Leaders Course in February and her company is starting up a Sapper School train up program.
What better example than having Pearson assist in teaching the program.