By Sgt. Dustin Gautney, 2HBCT Public AffairsJanuary 26, 2012
FORT STEWART, Ga. (Jan. 26, 2012) -- "On Target" squawked the radio, following the crash and boom of the 20mm cannon of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The roar of the 30-ton steel behemoth filled the air as the heavily armored infantry fighting vehicle scoured for its next target.
This scenario might seem like any other day on a Fort Stewart range. However, on this range a milestone was accruing. Commanding the vehicle through the range was one of the first-ever female Soldiers to ever complete Bradley gunnery.
Maj. Julie D'Annunzio never purposely sought to reach a milestone for a female Soldier. However, the circumstances arouse for her to become one of the first females to ever complete Bradley fighting vehicle gunnery, a combat position that is normally a male-only event.
"The whole thing with me going through Bradley gunnery started with a conversation with the 2nd Heavy Brigade commander, Colonel Douglas Cardinale," said D'Annunzio, the 2-3 Brigade Troops Support Battalion S-3. "We were discussing the 2-3 BTSB Gunnery and he asked whether I ever had experience shooting a Bradley, and one thing lead to another and I had the chance to go through the gunnery myself."
D'Annunzio explained that it is normally impossible for a female Soldier to ever be in a position to participate in Bradley gunnery. Even for an officer in the engineer branch, female officers cannot be part of a combat engineer unit until becoming a field grade officer.
"Most female engineers are part of construction based units. However, once someone becomes a field grade it is possible to take command of a combat engineer unit, which normally requires the commander to become qualified during Bradley gunnery," said Maj. D'Annunzio.
Because of this possibility in D'Annunzio's career, Cardinale wanted her to have the experience under her belt, explained D'Annunzio.
"It was a great opportunity to have the experience of Bradley gunnery in my tool box, so I have to greatly appreciate the experience opportunity afforded by the Spartan Brigade command," said D'Annunzio.
D'Annunzio said she was surprised by the great amount of skill and technical expertise required of Soldiers to qualify on Bradley gunnery.
"It is really hard. It is unfortunate that Soldiers from technical skill jobs think that combat Soldiers are not required to have the mental skills in their jobs. But just one day working with the Bradley and it really opens your eyes to the amount of technical skill that these Soldiers have to master on their weapons systems and truly how complicated the whole system really is," explained D'Annunzio.
The experience gave D'Annunzio a clearer picture on the intricacies of the skills needed and the training required for Soldiers preparing for gunnery.
"Going in I thought it would be like a video game, just kind of point and shoot, but it is really not like that at all. I am really glad that I was able to really experience the gunnery for myself. Even for planning a gunnery for a unit as an S3, just knowing exactly what each Soldier has to go through has given me a much greater appreciation and understanding on not just the impact the qualification on the unit but for the individual Soldier," said D'Annunzio.
D'Annunzio said the experience has been a lasting one that she hopes she will be able to repeat in the future.
"This was my first time coordinating gunnery as an S3 and firing at gunnery. However, I can definitely say I would much rather be in the vehicle firing than watching from a towe, and I really hope I'll be able to qualify again in the future," said D'Annunzio.