Women Join Ranks of Cavalry Scouts in Nebraska

SGT Danielle Martin tackles an obstacle during the 1-134th Cavalry Squadron’s spur ride during annual training in the Republic of Korea June 17, 2019. (Photo by SGT Anna Pongo)

LINCOLN, Neb. – Every Soldier in the Army National Guard has a story: the reasons why they joined the military, picked their particular military occupational specialty (MOS), or serve in their military Unit of choice.

For two Soldiers serving in the Nebraska Army National Guard’s Troop B, 1-134th Cavalry, their stories are notably different than those around them. That’s because Sergeant (SGT) Nicole Havlovic and SGT Danielle Martin are two of the very few women serving in the Nebraska Cavalry Squadron, and are two of only a few women in the nation who have successfully graduated from the Army’s toughest combat arms MOS school, earning themselves the title of Cavalry Scout.

SGT Havlovic originally joined the Nebraska Army National Guard as a 92W Water Treatment Specialist. However, after serving for six years, she decided to leave the Guard for a year because she wanted to do something different.

It was that desire for something new that drove her to join the Nebraska Army Guard Cavalry Squadron.

“I felt like it would be a perfect fit. I’m pretty outdoorsy and this – being out in the field – doesn’t bother me at all.”

SGT Danielle Martin’s route to becoming a Cavalry scout was not a direct one, either.

“I’ve always wanted to go into combat arms,” she says. “It was a year before joining the military that I knew combat arms was what I wanted to do. However, I was still junior-enlisted, so I really couldn’t do much about it.”

The last restrictions against women serving in combat roles were lifted in 2013. However, Army regulations specified that Units were first required to have two female Cavalry scouts in leadership positions before other female Soldiers would be allowed to join their ranks. This made integrating junior-ranking women into the Units all that much more difficult.

SGT Martin began her career in the Nebraska Army National Guard as a 92A Automated Logistical Specialist before joining a military police Unit. After rising to the rank of Sergeant, she finally saw a way to achieve her combat arms goal.

Both Sergeants attended Cavalry scout reclassification school – an Army school designed to train Soldiers from other MOS’ in the skills needed to become operational Cavalry scouts. SGT Martin attended the November reclassification course in Boise, Id. After completing the course, she reported to the Nebraska-based Troop B this past January.

SGT Martin says the reception she received from her new Unit made her realize they respected her newly-earned skills. She says it wasn’t about changing who anyone was, but rather, having mutual respect between Soldiers.

“They don’t treat me any differently just because I’m female. I’m one of the guys and I think it needs to be that way. I’m not coming in here to change them, I’m coming in here because I know I can physically and mentally handle it, and I want to do the job.”

SGT Havlovic attended the Cavalry Scout Transition Course in Smyrna, Tenn., and reported to Troop B in April 2019. She too says her fellow Soldiers don’t treat her differently than any other member of the Unit.

“I expect them to believe that they can trust me with the mission and what we have to do,” she says. “Everyone has been welcoming to me.”

With the two women completing their transition courses, Nebraska National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron became the ninth Army National Guard Unit, fourth Cavalry Troop, and second Infantry Brigade Combat Team Cavalry Troop to be opened for junior enlisted female Cavalry scouts.

First Sergeant (1SG) Andrew Filips, Troop B’s senior enlisted Soldier, has spent 15 years in the Squadron. He says the change of policy wasn’t an issue.

“What it comes down to is that we’re a Combat Arms Unit and there’s only one standard. You either make the cut, or there are other Units for you to go to.”

First Sergeant (1SG) Christopher Marcello of Grand Island’s Troop A, 1-134th Cavalry Squadron, is a 22-year veteran of the Squadron. He has also been a member of the Grand Island Police Department for six years. He echoes 1SG Filips’ sentiments.

“I work with women every day as a police officer and that’s a tough job. Combat arms isn’t any different. You have to have the right fit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. You have to be the right kind of person to be a scout.”

The Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1-134th Cavalry Squadron is part of the larger 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which is headquartered in Arkansas. The Brigade is responsible for providing training and readiness oversight of its subordinate Units. According to Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Gregory White, 39th IBCT senior enlisted leader, the Brigade finds the right Soldiers for the job by looking at those who want to do it, instead of looking at who can physically do it.

CSM White also says that women who hold a combat arms MOS are the best representatives to recruit other women into the field. He spoke with SGT Martin during a visit to Troop B’s recent annual training in the Republic of Korea. They both agreed the focus should be on reaching out to women who want the challenge of serving in a combat arms position, and once they do, give them the tools they need to become advocates.

“Having her [SGT Martin] talk to them is going to be so much better than a guy who has been in for 30 years,” he says. “A 50-year-old man talking to these young women will not reach them the same way.”

1SG Filips says the physical demands are not the only aspect of combat arms that new recruits need to consider. The relatively demanding training pace also makes Combat Arms Units different. Troop B regularly trains in the field and spends most drill weekends training throughout the night. That is often one of the more significant reasons why some Soldiers eventually choose to transfer into the squadron.

“If you want to come into the Guard and feel like this is what I want to do; (that) I want to … be awesome and be the baddest dudes and wear the cool hats and do all that, then yes go for it,” says 1SG Filips. “But if you are ‘I want to try this because it would be neat,’ there’s other places to be neat. Come here because this is what you always wanted to do in life. You have to want it.”

1SG Marcello seconds these comments, adding that Troop A is willing to let Soldiers – male or female – try being a Cavalry scout for their drill weekend.

“We’re more than happy to let people come in, try it out and if it doesn’t work for you, we get it,” he says. “It has nothing to do with gender or sex; it has to do with whether or not you can do the job.”

Both SGT Havlovic and SGT Martin say they realize they are now mentors and role models for those around them and encourage other Soldiers to give it a try.

“It’s definitely something I would sit down, explain to them, and educate them on,” says SGT Havlovic, who now works for the State recruiting office.

“It’s not for everybody, it really isn’t. I don’t believe that just because combat arms has been opened up to females means that all females belong here – but if you can do it, then do it.”

If you’ve got what it takes to stand alongside some of the strongest Soldiers, consider joining the Army National Guard. By becoming a Soldier in the Guard, you’ll be able to serve part-time in your home State, and receive top-notch training in the career field of your choice. Browse the job board for opportunities in more than 130 specialties, including ground forces, aviation, and engineering. Contact a recruiter to learn how you can serve today!

From an original article by SSG Herschel Talley, Nebraska National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in September 2019.

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From Soldier to Citizen

An Iraqi Translator becomes a Guardsman and an American

SGT Abbas Mousa outside Joint Force Headquarters, District of Columbia National Guard

The official looking piece of paper that came in the mail wasn’t what Abbas Mousa thought it was. The Baghdad, Iraq, native thought he was being told to report for duty to help his new country. Instead, it was his U.S. Selective Service registration card.

Even though it was a mix-up, Mousa remembered the excitement he felt to be asked to serve the U.S. military again. It was because of his service as a translator for American troops in Iraq that he was able to immigrate in 2009 to Wisconsin, where he was working as a team leader at a warehouse for an Internet retailer.

He found that he missed military life and the camaraderie that comes with it.

“Living on a base for almost three years, the first American culture I learned was the military culture. I learned to love America before I’d seen America,” he says. “You bonded with these Soldiers on a personal level. They’re your friends, they’re your buddies.”

So after talking with military friends, Mousa decided to join the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He could serve close to home, near his family, and, because Guard service is part-time, he could still have a civilian career and get a master’s degree.

“Plus, I really felt like I would want to do something for my State, for my city, because the fact that I escaped the city that I love, Baghdad, kept haunting me,” he says. “I didn’t stay and defend my city, but I had no choice. There’s no organization or even a military that I trusted that I could join. Even the Iraqi military was corrupt.”

Not that working for the American military, which had occupied Iraq since 2003, sounded like a great option to him, either, back in 2006.

After graduating from college, Mousa worked for a construction company that eventually asked him to run a project on a U.S. Army base near Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, which was considered a safe area. It was either that or move back to Baghdad, which was dangerous, he said.

He was also wary of American Soldiers.

“I’d heard bad things about the U.S. military, especially after the Abu Ghraib [prison] scandal happened.”

But ultimately, he decided not to judge the American military as a whole based on the actions of a few. He accepted the job, and decided to trust what he saw with his own eyes rather than what he heard in the media.

He liked what he saw, and the Soldiers on base liked what they saw in Mousa, because once his project was complete, he was asked to become a translator for the military. He served in that capacity on the base for the next 2 1/2 years. He was also able to get his sister a job as a translator on base, which is what laid the groundwork for both of them to settle in Wisconsin.

Mousa’s sister and a Captain in the Wisconsin Army National Guard fell in love and got married on base, and, by coincidence, Mousa had a brother and sister who were already living in Wisconsin as refugees.

Because of their service to America, Mousa, his sister, and their family would always be targets for terrorists if they stayed in Iraq. They were able to obtain Special Immigrant Visas, which were set up by Congress for Iraqi and Afghani translators to immigrate to the United States.

And while he had fond memories of his homeland, Mousa said he didn’t think twice about leaving it.

“My mom always said the country where you have a home and a family – that is your country, that is your home.”

After joining the Wisconsin Guard in 2011, where Mousa worked as an 89B Ammunition Specialist and a 92A Automated Logistical Specialist, he was able to become a U.S. citizen.

After he finished his master’s degree in economics he decided to move to the Nation’s capital for a job as an economist in the Department of Commerce, and transfer to the Washington, D.C., Guard, where he is a Sergeant.

Washington appealed to him, in part, because it has an active storytelling community. In fact, you can hear SGT Mousa tell his story of living in and fleeing Baghdad, complete with his near misses with a car bomb and a kidnapping, on The Moth.

In his new city, SGT Mousa has been activated for three Guard missions, including helping with crowd management for two events on the same weekend in January – the Presidential Inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington – where the politically opposite audiences were enthusiastic and expressed their gratitude for the Guard’s presence.

“I met a happy crowd from two different parties with way different views on things,” he says. “I was happy both days.”

SGT Mousa says one of the benefits of serving in the Guard is being able to take pride in helping the community.

“I felt weak so many times in Iraq,” he says. “I will know what to do if my State ever needs me, and I know we’re probably far away from any collapse like what other countries are facing, but it’s good to know that you’re ready whenever you’re needed.”

So if you’re interested in stepping up to serve your community and your country, consider joining the Army National Guard, which offers training in more than 150 careers. Check out our job board to learn more, and for personalized assistance, contact your local recruiter

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Leading the Double Life of a Citizen-Soldier®

Fresh out of high school, Reanna Alvarez didn’t go off to college the following fall like the rest of her friends after graduation. If she wanted to pursue a degree, she was going to have to find a way to pay for it herself.

A friend mentioned that he was getting his school paid for through the Army National Guard, a branch of the military Alvarez hadn’t heard of, where Soldiers serve one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.

The fact that Guard service was a part-time commitment carried a lot of appeal for Alvarez while she was mulling her options at age 19.

“You could be in the military, choose an MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] that you’re interested in, and then on the civilian side, you could do the same thing,” explains Alvarez. “You have the experience from the military that you could utilize as a civilian. Then, while you’re a civilian, you can be going to school.”

Now a specialist with the Maryland Army National Guard for the past five years, Alvarez’s MOS is 92A Automated Logistical Specialist. In her Engineering Unit, she is responsible mainly for vehicle dispatch, keeping track of keys and personnel paperwork. She also tests her Unit’s equipment, like gas masks, to make sure they are working properly. On the civilian side, SPC Alvarez says the job is comparable to working at a distribution center.

SPC Reanna Alvarez

SPC Reanna Alvarez

When she’s not at drill, at home with her two kids, or doing homework for college, where she studies psychology, SPC Alvarez is a waitress, where her co-workers marvel at her ability to stay calm in any situation.

“The Guard gives you so many traits you can use as a civilian,” she explains. “I’ve gone through Basic [Training], where you have so much going on, there’s people yelling, and so much thrown at you that it makes civilian life look like a piece of cake.”

SPC Alvarez had a harder time at Basic Training than others might. She was battling an eating disorder, and a Drill Sergeant had found out. That led to a meeting with the Commander who could have easily sent her home.

Instead, she received encouragement.

“He told me he saw a lot of potential in me and that I shouldn’t let [the eating disorder] define me, and he really wanted me to push myself.”

Part of the reason she’s chosen psychology for a major is because of her struggle with the eating disorder that started when she was 16, and partly because she wants to be able to help veterans someday.

In the meantime, she’s helped out at two major events close to home in her capacity as a Guard Soldier – the Baltimore riots, which took place in spring 2015, and more recently, the Presidential Inauguration last month.

“I think it’s very cool knowing that I’m going to be able to tell my kids someday, whenever they can understand, that I was part of that experience … not only at the inauguration, but pulling security for the inauguration.”

Another cool thing she can tell her kids is that she was in a National Guard commercial that tied in to the 2013 “Man of Steel” Superman movie. SPC Alvarez was one of about 20 Soldiers who were chosen out of thousands of applicants to fly out to Hollywood to shoot the commercial and meet the director of the film. You can spot SPC Alvarez walking on the sidewalk in a gray and black striped sweater at the 6-second mark:

SPC Alvarez says the connection between Superman and the National Guard is, that like Clark Kent/Superman, the Guard Soldier also leads a double life as part-time citizen/part-time Soldier.

Even in stressful circumstances, like the Baltimore riots that lasted for several days, SPC Alvarez says people were grateful to have Soldiers on hand.

“People were constantly telling us, ‘thank you for being here. Thank you for making us feel safe.’ At the end of the day, that’s all we try to do.”

So if you’re interested in keeping your community and the Nation safe, consider joining the National Guard, where you can train in one of 150 different career fields and take advantage of great benefits like money for college. Search our job board for descriptions of each career, or contact a recruiter for personalized attention. 

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