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.