Female armor officers prepare to lead Idaho Soldiers into combat

Story by Capt. Robert Taylor

The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team’s B Company, 2-116th Cavalry Regiment conducted gunnery Feb. 8-15 at the Orchard Combat Training Center, marking the first time female armor officers qualified in the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank in the Idaho Army National Guard’s history.

2nd Lt. Brooke Berard and 2nd Lt. Lauren Bolt graduated from the U.S. Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course Feb. 1 before returning to Idaho and accompanying their company to the field to conduct gunnery.

“After seeing the Abrams tank, I didn’t feel like I had another option,” Berard said. “Once I saw the tank’s power, that’s all I wanted to do.”
Both lieutenants will serve as platoon leaders for B Company, which is located in Nampa. As platoon leaders, each Soldier will command a platoon of up to 14 Soldiers and four Abrams.

Berard and Bolt are the first qualified combat arms female officers in the Idaho Army National Guard’s history. They follow other Idaho Army National Guard female Soldiers into the combat ranks since females were permitted to serve in all positions in the military in December 2015.

In 2016, 1st Sgt. Erin Smith became the first enlisted Soldier in the U.S. Army to graduate from the service’s M1 Armor Crewman School. In 2017, Staff Sgt. Kylene Huetra became the first female assigned to the 2-116th Cavalry Regiment as a tank crew member. She was recently reassigned as B Company’s supply sergeant.

Sgt. 1st Class Melanie Galletti graduated from the Infantry Transition Course in April 2017, becoming the first female Soldier in the state’s history to earn the Army’s blue infantry cord. She served as a squad leader in C Company, 2-116th Cavalry Regiment until she was reassigned to a position in a different company and subsequently promoted.

“I don’t care if you’re male or female,” said Lt. Col. Jason Gracida, commander, 2-116th CAV REG. “I care if you’re a good leader and Soldier. At the end of the day, you’re going to lead Soldiers into combat. I need to know if you’re a capable officer.”

Both junior officers know and understand their role on the battlefield.

“We close with and destroy the enemy with shock, mobility and firepower,” said Berard. “Not only do you have this firepower, you also have to make choices quickly.”

The M1A2 Abrams main battle tank is the Army’s most advance battle tank.

“When we get together and put rounds down range, and begin to maneuver as an element, there’s nothing more exhilarating,” Bolt said.

Bolt served as an 88M motor transport operator with the Nevada Army National Guard before transferring to the Idaho Army National Guard to become an armor officer. Both her parents also served in the military.

Gunnery tables often mean long days, with mechanical issues and winter weather causing delays, adding to the stress for new lieutenants conducting gunnery for the first time.

“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work,” Beard said. “You’re tired but it’s so much fun.”
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