Specialists Nicol Vargas, Veronica Kramer, Autumn Aderhold, and Brandy Brasted all graduated from the Artillery School at the 139th Regimental Training Institute at Fort Bragg, N.C., last month.
Each from a different State, they are the first female Army National Guard members to complete the male-dominated Field Artillery School, but will definitely not be the last.
“They were excited, motivated, determined to learn. They asked lots of questions, had very positive attitudes, and completed everything that was asked of them,” said Kevin Hale, 139th RTI Field Artillery Instructor.
All 10 students attending the class have alternate Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) but wanted to be more incorporated into operational experiences. And what better way to do that than a reclassification course?
“It’s something different and more fun. We were behind a desk, and we wanted to get out there and do something better. We’re active!” Aderhold and Brasted both explained.
The 18-day course gives students 40 hours of classroom time to learn all the concepts, theories, and mechanics of a 13M Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) Crewmember. They are taught artillery tactics and battle strategies, as well as how to calculate locations manually and electronically, how to handle ammunition properly, and how to operate gun, missile, and rocket systems.
Because the occupation primarily focuses on supporting infantry and tank units while supplementing cannon artillery in combat, the other 120 hours of the course are spent hands-on with the vehicles so that students can apply all the classroom concepts they learned.
“It was a lot when we started, but now it’s not nearly as much as they made us think it was,” Kramer said.
“Hands-on training is always so much better,” Aderhold added.
Service members have to maintain, supervise, and operate the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), the newest wheeled chassis light version of the MLRS. It carries a single six-pack of rockets or one ATACMS missile, and can launch the entire MLRS family of munitions.
“I like downloading the truck, but I like running the HIMARS, too,” said Kramer.
They also learn the M270-A1 Self Propelled Loader Launcher, which is the tracked version of the M142. It can be operated with the same techniques and can launch up to 12 rockets in less than 60 seconds.
To operate these massive systems, crews work in orders of three (the driver, gunner, and the section chief). During training, students cross-train in each area to gain experience doing all three jobs needed in this three-man crew.
“The Soldiers sitting in these seats are the future of the National Guard,” Command Sgt. Maj. John Swart, North Carolina National Guard Command senior enlisted leader, told them. “It’s important that we work as a team.”
Field Artillery has been a part of the armed forces since the early 1900s and is one of various jobs that have been male-dominated until recently.
“The guys accepted them into the field artillery world, and they worked well as a team, as one Army, as it should be,” Hale said.
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Original article courtesy of NationalGuard.mil news. Story and photo by Sgt. Leticia Samuels, North Carolina National Guard.