News: 1st female FA Soldiers prepare for combat
Story by Tulara McCauley
FORT BLISS, Texas – Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery - Multiple Launch Rocket System and a detachment from 1st Battalion, 171st Field Artillery - MLRS, Oklahoma Army National Guard, arrived, here, May 6, to begin mobilization for an upcoming deployment.
Capt. Randall “Randy” F. Wright, from Lawton, Oklahoma, Bravo battery commander, was confident of his troops’ abilities. The unit is a fifty-fifty mix of combat veterans and new Soldiers.
“My expectations are that we will exceed the standards,” said Wright. “We are here to validate the training that we’ve already done to this point and I expect them to perform for me as they have done historically. It’s a very talented group of Soldiers. As a National Guard unit they don’t get to practice as often but their proficiencies are high.”
For the first time in 91 years, the 1/158 FA has integrated female Soldiers into its ranks. The introduction of two females into the all-male unit in November was successful. Both Soldiers volunteered to deploy with the 1/158 FA.
“We’re turning a page in history,” said Wright. “It’s a great opportunity for women, the field artillery community and for the Oklahoma National Guard. Both of the young ladies are outstanding Soldiers. We can’t send rockets downrange without fire direction specialists controlling the fires and that’s what they do. They’ve been very active in our live-fire certifications. Their skill level and proficiency is not affected by their gender.”
Pfc. Makyla K. McKean, 18, from Elgin, Oklahoma, is a nursing student. While McKean was in Advanced Individual Training, she heard about the upcoming deployment for Bravo Btry. When she went to her first drill in November, 2013, McKean asked to be transferred and was immediately moved to Bravo.
“I spoke to my recruiter and found out that not very many females have jumped into this Military Occupational Specialty,” said McKean. “They need to get their hands on it. It’s kind of cool that you get to tell rockets where to go. No one thinks of girls shooting rockets. I think more females should go for it.”
Pfc. Jerra-Amie N. Hodges, 19, from Lawton, Oklahoma, agreed with McKean.
“No other women have done this MOS and this is my part of paving the way for females who want to serve in combat arms,” said Hodges. She reflected on the transition into Bravo. “Initially, when we were briefed, we would hear them say ‘Guys – and females.’ They didn’t want to say the wrong thing but now we are all comfortable with each other. I like that the unit doesn’t baby us.”
Reflecting on their first deployment, both Soldiers commended the command group.
“I love my leadership,” said McKean. “The commander and first sergeant really care about everybody in the unit.”
“Everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing and that’s what we need from our leadership,” said Hodges. “Thank you to everyone who helped us get where we are. It’s pretty awesome that we get to deploy not even a year after we finished basic training.”
Date Posted:05.13.2014 17:32
Location:FORT BLISS, TX, US
Hometown:CHICKASHA, OK, US
Hometown:DUSTIN, OK, US
Hometown:ELGIN, OK, US
Hometown:LAWTON, OK, US
Hometown:MARLOW, OK, US
Hometown:OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, US