In 2014, a directive was issued from the secretary of the Army, authorizing more opportunities for women to serve in a wider range of roles within the U.S. Army. By January 2016, the U.S. military must open all combat jobs to women or explain why any must remain closed.
Being officially assigned to Albion based Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery in November, 2nd Lt. Mary Connolly has broken down a barrier to become the first female artillery officer assigned to an artillery battery in the Michigan National Guard. Connolly graduated Field Artillery Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in October and is currently serving as a fire direction officer.
“Charlie Battery has accepted me with open arms and I am here to learn from the Soldiers I will serve with,” said Connolly. “I don’t see this assignment as a ‘male/female’ thing. We are all Soldiers, and we all have a job to do.”
She enrolled in the Reserve Officer’s Training Program (ROTC) at Western Michigan University in 2010 and completed leadership development and assessment course (LDAC) at Fort Lewis, Wash., in summer of 2013. It was a field artillery demonstration at LDAC that really hooked her. The combination of being physically challenging and requiring mental agility initially drew Connolly to field artillery.
“It was awesome to see all of the functions of field artillery come together,” Connolly said. “From the forward observer calling the rounds, to the coordinate manager to the equipment…….everything had to be aligned and in sync to maximize accuracy – it was teamwork at its best and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Sgt. Martin Lach is the fire direction sergeant who will work directly for 2nd Lt. Connolly. He said Connolly is the 5th new fire direction officer he has worked with and other than a bit of hesitation simply from being new to the job he sees no difference in her performance compared to male counterparts.
“She fits really well in this role,” Lach said. “The male unit members don’t treat her any different from the way they treat one another, so far the reception has been 100% positive and ‘business as usual’. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I feel this is an exciting opportunity to show that women can integrate into a previously all-male role without issue.”
Lt. Col. Robert Frazer commander of the 1st Battalion, 119th Field Artillery said he looks forward to training with Connolly to showcase her skills and the skills of the unit and to show that integration can be a positive thing for the Army. “Honestly, I am excited that the pool of potential recruits just doubled in size as a result of this directive. My battalion has been preparing for this since spring and I think the Soldiers share my sentiment that this is an exciting time for integrating women into the fighting force. This is the modern National Guard and the old mindset that women should be sheltered from certain military roles should be completely removed from the unit. If there are some lingering naysayers I am confident that Soldiers like Connolly will cause them to adjust their ways of thinking and appreciate the advantages of integration. It helps the cause immensely to see women like her functioning at full strength alongside the guys. I am personally thrilled to have her in my battalion, she is an excellent Soldier.”