All posts by Meghan Portillo

NCOs work behind the scenes of Army’s Best Medic Competition

Also this week: With short-notice shakeup, Rangers become Army’s Best Medics
By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

From dreaming up the competition’s challenges to acquiring the resources and executing the event, NCOs are responsible for the Army’s Best Medic Competition from start to finish.

The jobs of medics and others with medical professions are so crucial to the Army that those NCOs are often not leaned on for their expertise in other areas, explained Master Sgt. Michael Eldred, the NCO in charge of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition, which took place Oct. 24-27 at Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston and nearby Camp Bullis, Texas.

“We are often delegated to running the medical care of a section and we don’t get involved in the security, the planning process,” Eldred said. “But Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Ecker, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Medical Command, said it is all about presence. He made it clear he wants us – Army Medical Department Center and School NCOs and Army Medical Command NCOs – to be present at everything that happens out there. That gets us into the middle of that planning.

“We need these NCOs to start thinking about how to plan and learn how to train other people,” he said. “So the command sergeant major wanted that to be the emphasis for the Army Best Medic Competition. We don’t just dictate the style and everything that goes into this. I take each one of these NCOs and teach them, watch them grow from that information that I give them.”

Eldred is proud of what his NCOs have accomplished, and said the success of the Best Medic Competition is proof of their ability to plan, adapt and execute at every level.

“I’ve got an NCO in charge of the tactical operations center, an NCO in charge of supply and resourcing. I’ve got an NCO in charge of every aspect: each lane, each phase,” Eldred said. “We make this competition work as the NCO Corps.”

The competition is designed in a modular fashion, which allows the planners to switch things up and keep it fresh. Each of the six lanes is run by a major command or brigade, which assigns the NCOIC. Eldred works with all of them to make sure they understand the requirements they must meet, as well as the intent of the command sergeant major.

“Some of them jump at the opportunity to be creative, sometimes to the point that they get protective about it,” Eldred said. “They get upset if I need to come in and change this or that. And I don’t mind that. I would much rather have to calm somebody down than amp somebody up. It is easier to get somebody to do the right thing if they are really motivated. I’m a medic, so I’m no stranger to emotions. We learn to treat people in a healthy emotional way. I am used to dealing with emotions on that level, and I [use that experience to help me guide these NCOs.] I want to encourage them through their emotions to get the job done.”

Coordinating resources

Eldred encourages the NCOs planning the lanes to get creative. He tells them, “This is your moment to shine, so take it and run with it.”

That creativity can make things interesting for Sgt. 1st Class Steve Gaddy, the logistics and personnel operations NCOIC for the Best Medic Competition.

“They dream it, and I resource it, plan it and execute it. Sometimes I have to rein Master Sgt. Eldred in,” Gaddy said with a laugh. “As a long-term Ranger, he has some grand ideas. I tear them apart and figure out what we need to make them a reality.”

Last year, the NCOs planning the competition pulled off a full-blown paintball war in the force-on-force lane. The competitors had to fight their way through a mock village to get to a casualty. In a matter of about three weeks, Gaddy sourced paintballs, paintball guns, CO2, masks, eye protection and more.

This year, competitors faced a lane in which they were overrun by the enemy and had to escape and evade. Gaddy arranged for “hunter-killer teams” to lurk in the woods, looking for the competitors. If the competing team didn’t move covertly enough through the terrain and the hunter-killers got close enough to read the numbers displayed on their shoulders, that team lost points.

“The NCOs come up with great things, too. We give them an idea and let them run with it. We hold weekly meetings to make sure they stay on track. But as long as they hit the required tenets, they can make it how they want it,” Gaddy said. “They develop their plans and then tell me the resources and personnel they need. Nine times out of 10, I’ve already got it, but there have been some interesting ones that have come up – a jump car, one guy needed a tractor. I’ve had canoes requested, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers. If I can get it for them, I will.”

Gaddy taps into the expertise and resources not only of U.S. Army Medical Command and the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, but also of every other entity on or near Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, including Army North, Army South, the Air Force, the National Guard, the Reserves, a special forces unit based at Camp Bullis, and even other posts such as Fort Bliss, Texas. He said building those relationships has enabled them to make the competition a success.

“What makes this competition so interesting is the fact that I’m getting the best and the brightest Army medical NCOs coming up with lanes that are both applicable to being a combat medic and still challenging in that they are most likely outside of the competitors’ daily scope of practice,” Gaddy said.

Creating the lanes

Sgt. 1st Class Delmar Lockett, a pharmacy instructor at the Medical Educational Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston, jumped at the chance to create the warrior tasks and battle drills lane for this year’s competition. He said he was looking to take on more responsibility and was honored to have been a part of such a prestigious event.

“My goal is to capture the essence of what the Army Best Medic Competition is all about,” Lockett said. “I want things to run smoothly and for Command Sgt. Maj. Ecker to be able to walk down and say, ‘You know, this is exactly what I needed.’”

As NCOIC of the lane, Lockett did everything in his power to make the lane feel as real as possible.

Often, when Soldiers are asked to do warrior tasks and battle drills, they do them in a round-robin fashion, Eldred explained. In the Best Medic Competition, however, competitors faced a challenge within a combat scenario.

“Lockett had to employ personnel resources that influence the competitors’ decisions,” Eldred said. “So a tank moves up, competitors have to do a call for fire. They have to adjust off a target reference point. They will do the task, but they will do it within a realistic scenario.

“The competitors won’t even realize they are being tested on some of this stuff,” Eldred said. “When the grader says, ‘Hey, you’ve got a guy in a tunnel. He just hit a chlorine gas mine, and he is unconscious. Here is his mask. Here is your mask. Do what you need to do.’ Immediately – if they don’t put their own mask on first, they are wrong. If they do put their own mask on first but then jump down into the tunnel without the other mask, they are wrong because they will need to immediately put it in place before dragging him out of there. And while they are putting their masks on, they are being timed.”

Lockett said he was grateful for the learning experience and for the opportunity to work with NCOs such as Eldred, who gave helpful suggestions along the way while inspiring him to develop his own ideas.

“This is definitely the biggest project I have had the opportunity to oversee in my career so far,” Lockett said. “It is a proud moment to see it all come together. If you think about it, only about six people are in charge of lanes this year. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something like that in the Army?”

NCOs created each lane of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition, which took place Oct. 24-27 at Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston and nearby Camp Bullis, Texas. Above, Master Sgt. Michael Eldred, NCOIC of the competition, discusses on-site logistics of the warrior tasks and battle drills lane with Sgt. 1st Class Delmar Lockett. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
NCOs created each lane of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition, which took place Oct. 24-27 at Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston and nearby Camp Bullis, Texas. Above, Master Sgt. Michael Eldred, NCOIC of the competition, discusses on-site logistics of the warrior tasks and battle drills lane with Sgt. 1st Class Delmar Lockett. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

With short-notice shakeup, Rangers become Army’s best medics

Also this week: NCOs work behind the scenes of Army’s Best Medic Competition
By SEAN KIMMONS
Army News Service

With only a week’s notice, Sgt. Derick Bosley found out that he would be competing in a 72-hour contest to name the Army’s top combat medics.

The 33-year-old Ranger paired up with Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell, a fellow Ranger, to compete in the Army’s Best Medic Competition, held in the San Antonio area. Both Mitchell’s original partner and backup partner had suffered injuries before the competition began, making them unable to participate.

Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell helps Sgt. Derick Bosley negotiate an obstacle Oct. 27, 2016, during the 2016 Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The two were named winners of the competition during an Oct. 28, 2016 awards ceremony. Bosley and Mitchell, both Army Rangers, represented U.S. Army Special Operations Command in the annual event. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Torres / U.S. Army)
Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell helps Sgt. Derick Bosley negotiate an obstacle Oct. 27, 2016, during the 2016 Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The two were named winners of the competition during an Oct. 28, 2016 awards ceremony. Bosley and Mitchell, both Army Rangers, represented U.S. Army Special Operations Command in the annual event. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Torres / U.S. Army)

“I looked at him and said, ‘I guess we’re going into this and straight winging it,” Mitchell recalled.

As Rangers continually train at a high standard, Mitchell, 26, said he had no worries about the abilities of his newest teammate.

“I expect and know what he can do because he’s an NCO in Ranger regiment medicine,” he said. “There’s no dropping the ball because we know that’s just not what we do.”

And the quick change couldn’t have worked any better.

With basically a second alternate as a teammate, the duo grabbed first place Friday after representing the Army Special Operations Command in the annual contest, in which expert combat medics from across the service competed against each other in several physically and mentally demanding tasks.

This year, 42 two-person teams vied for the competition’s coveted statuette award, dedicated to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark, the Army Medical Command’s former senior enlisted leader who focused on the vital role medics play in the Army.

After battling the stifling heat and rough terrain of the Texas countryside, Mitchell and Bosley were able the claim the award.

“There was never a doubt in my mind,” Bosley said. “It’s either we win this, or we’re coming back next year to win. It was one or the other.”

That doesn’t mean the contest, tailored after the Best Ranger Competition, was a walk in the park, they said.

“It was way harder than we expected,” Bosley said, adding that some parts of the competition really tested their skills. “There was a lot of stiff competition, with some creative medics out there.”

Sgt. Jarrod Sheets and Sgt. Matthew Evans from the 10th Mountain Division took second place in the competition, while Capt. Jeremiah Beck and Sgt. Seyoung Lee from the 2nd Infantry Division secured third.

Once those teams were honored, Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Ecker, the Army Medical Command’s senior enlisted leader, addressed all of the medics during Friday’s awards ceremony.

“The only certainty in war is that we will take casualties. And that’s where you come in — the combat medic,” he said. “You are the front line.”

In the future, he said that expert medics will be needed even more as multi-domain concepts emerge and change the battlefield.

“We’re going to be fighting in the unknown,” he said. “Thank God we have expert and dedicated medics such as you. That’s why this is a very proud day for Army medicine.”

Sgt. Derick Bosley negotiates an obstacle Oct. 27, 2016, during the 2016 Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Bosley and teammate Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell were named winners of the competition during an Oct. 28, 2016 awards ceremony. The two noncommissioned officers, both Army Rangers, represented U.S. Army Special Operations Command in the annual event. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Torres / U.S. Army)
Sgt. Derick Bosley negotiates an obstacle Oct. 27, 2016, during the 2016 Army Best Medic Competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Bosley and teammate Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell were named winners of the competition during an Oct. 28, 2016 awards ceremony. The two noncommissioned officers, both Army Rangers, represented U.S. Army Special Operations Command in the annual event. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Torres / U.S. Army)

Best medic winners named after grueling competition

NCO Journal report

Two medics representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command were named the Army’s best medics after a grueling 72-hour competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Camp Bullis, Texas.

Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell and Sgt. Derick Bosley from the 75th Ranger Regiment, representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, were named the winners of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition during a ceremony Friday at the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston. Both Mitchell and Bosley are stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell and Sgt. Derick Bosley of the 75th Ranger Regiment, representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, are the 2016 winners of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition. Pictured from left are Maj. Gen. Brian Lein, commanding general for the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Mitchell, Bosley and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker, command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Medical Command. (Photo courtesy of AMEDDC&S)
Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell and Sgt. Derick Bosley of the 75th Ranger Regiment, representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, are the 2016 winners of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition. Pictured from left are Maj. Gen. Brian Lein, commanding general for the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Mitchell, Bosley and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker, command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Medical Command. (Photo courtesy of AMEDDC&S)

Second place went to Sgt. Matthew Evans and Sgt. Jarrod Sheets from the 10th Mountain Division, and third place went to Cpt. Jeremiah Beck and Sgt. Seyoung Lee from the 2nd Infantry Division. Awards were also presented for the top performing teams in different categories, including the best overall physical fitness score, medical skills score and marksmanship score.

The competition, hosted by Army Medical Command and conducted by AMEDDC&S, is designed to test Soldiers’ tactical medical proficiency, teamwork and leadership skills. The competing teams were graded in the areas of physical fitness – in addition to PT and combat water survival tests, they were required to walk up to 30 miles throughout the competition – tactical pistol and rifle marksmanship, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies.

Wesley P. Elliot of Army Medicine contributed to this report.
Header image courtesy of AMEDDC&S.

Teams prepare for Armywide best medic competition

By MEGHAN PORTILLO
NCO Journal

Two-Soldier teams across the Army are studying and training hard as they prepare to compete for the title of best medic.

The Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition, a 72-hour competition that pushes Soldiers to their physical and mental limits, will take place Oct. 24-27 at Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston and nearby Camp Bullis, Texas.

After reacting to fire, competitors in the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Best Medic Competition had to move an injured Soldier to safety and treat his injuries. Above, Sgt. David Hull inserts an IV into a training arm. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
After reacting to fire, competitors in the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School Best Medic Competition had to move an injured Soldier to safety and treat his injuries. Above, Sgt. David Hull inserts an IV into a training arm. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

After proving themselves at lower-level competitions, 42 two-person teams will represent divisions, commands, separate brigades and special operations units from throughout the Army. Each team member must have a 68 medical series military occupational specialty and must have earned either the Combat Medical Badge or the Expert Field Medical Badge to be eligible to compete.

The team members representing U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, which will host the Armywide event, said they plan to utilize every resource available to them at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis as they prepare. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings of A Company, 264th Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, and Sgt. David Hull of C Company, 232nd Medical Battalion, 32nd Medical Brigade, know too well the bitterness of coming in second, and have vowed it will not happen again.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings fires an M16 rifle during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis, Texas. (Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez / AMEDDC&S)
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings fires an M16 rifle during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis, Texas. (Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez / AMEDDC&S)

Hull came in second place at the Best Medic Competition two years ago, and Cummings came in second at the Advanced Individual Training Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition that took place only the week before the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition. The disappointment was fresh in their minds.

“You never live down a second place finish, because you are the first loser,” Hull said. “I couldn’t go last year, because my unit was in predeployment training. So this is my chance to go back for first place. I’ve been looking for redemption.”

“We already talked about it,” Cummings said. “We said, ‘Hey, if we are on the team together, we are not getting second. First is the only option.”

Inspiring others to compete

Only five participants competed in September for the title of AMEDDC&S Best Medic. Cummings said he was sad to see younger Soldiers were not making competitions a priority, and decided to compete in both the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition and the AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition to inspire his Soldiers and others to compete in the future.

His plan is working. Even before the AMEDDC&S competition came to a close, Cummings said several of his Soldiers approached him, saying, “Hey, let me know what you learn, because I want to compete next year.”

Sgt. David Hull, center, instructs Soldiers as they secure a “casualty” to a litter for evacuation during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sgt. David Hull, center, instructs Soldiers as they secure a “casualty” to a litter for evacuation during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“We all need to remember that the Warrior Ethos is more than just for combat,” Cummings said. “You live it every single day. Your desire to go out and fight and win should be instilled here, each and every day, with everything you do. There is no room for complacency. There is no room for just getting by. You push yourself every single day, and you push your peers. You motivate each other. That is how you get better.”

“If I, a sergeant first class, am willing to go out and do back-to-back competitions – neither one a walk in the park, by any means – and still put forth my best effort and give these guys a run for their money, then that’s what it’s all about. We are the best military in the world because we push ourselves and we push each other. We need to keep that going. Even if you don’t win, it still sets you apart, because you are out there demonstrating that you want to get after it. You want to go and push yourself and test yourself and, if nothing else, you will learn, you will improve yourself, and you will at least give the people who do win those competitions a contest worth winning.”

Hull said he also hopes younger Soldiers and NCOs will rise to the challenge and recognize the benefits of competition. Not only would winning set them apart when it comes time for their next promotion, but the process itself is a valuable training opportunity, especially for those who do not practice those skills in their everyday job.

“This is such excellent training,” Hull said. “Everyone comes to win, but even if you don’t win, you leave having learned a lot. And you rarely get this kind of support on lanes like we did. The amount of cadre and personal – they provided an enormous amount of training in just two days.”

Preparing for the Armywide competition

The Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition is designed to physically and mentally challenge each team and test its tactical medical proficiency and leadership skills.

Events will include a physical fitness challenge, an obstacle course, a written test, a ruck march, and combat, shooting, medical and land-navigation challenges.

Cummings and Hull said they will be resting up and doing as much as they can to prepare before the end of October.

“Every medical course under the sun is here [at AMEDDC&S], pretty much, and we want to take advantage of that,” Cummings said. “We don’t have a lot of time, but the more training we can do, the better.”

The medical tasks are the most daunting and, for him, require the most preparation, Cummings explained.

Sgt. David Hull, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings cool down with a tub of ice water during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis in September. Hull and Cummings were the winners of the competition, and will represent AMEDDC&S in the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Sgt. David Hull, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cummings cool down with a tub of ice water during the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition at Camp Bullis in September. Hull and Cummings were the winners of the competition, and will represent AMEDDC&S in the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

“Only because there are so many steps. If you miss a step, it can throw everything off,” he said. “For example, if you start an IV before you secure an airway – that is a huge mistake. You are starting an IV to restore circulation and/or maintain blood pressure on somebody who doesn’t even have an airway, so they are dead before you even start the line. You can literally get so focused on what is in front of you that you get that tunnel vision. You can execute an intervention perfectly, but if it is at the wrong time, that is as lethal as not doing anything at all.

“And the chaotic nature of the competition is meant to mimic combat, and it leads to mistakes like that,” he continued. “That stress is built in, and it is realistic. You get so focused on your casualties – and you want to do your best for them. You immediately see something that needs to be fixed, but if you are not careful to step back and look at the big picture, you [could lose them.]”

That is why preparation is key, Cummings said. He is determined to prepare as well as he can, and then once the competition begins, he will focus only on the task before him. He said his experience in the recent AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year competition will certainly help him, but the experience he will rely on most is his teammate’s, because Hull has actually competed in best medic.

“Cummings’ performance [in the AMEDDC&S Best Medic Competition] is evidence of his ability – after competing for AIT Platoon Sergeant of the Year and having only one day off in between competitions – I think we will make a very strong team,” Hull said. “Get this guy some rest, and he will come back and ‘beast mode’ the Army Best Medic Competition.”

“Were going to tear that stuff up,” Cummings said.

Surrounded by smoke, Sgt. David Hull moves a mannequin onto a litter for medical evacuation. The MEDEVAC lane was one of the competition exercises at the AMEDDC&S Best Medic competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)
Surrounded by smoke, Sgt. David Hull moves a mannequin onto a litter for medical evacuation. The MEDEVAC lane was one of the competition exercises at the AMEDDC&S Best Medic competition. (Photo by Meghan Portillo / NCO Journal)

Army’s first female cannoneer finishes top of class, praises NCOs for their support

By CINDY MCINTYRE
Fort Sill Tribune

Sometimes a person is just in the right place at the right time.

And so it was for Pfc. Katherine Beatty when she learned her chosen military occupational specialty in signal intelligence wasn’t going to work out. Then came an offer too good to pass up.

Why not be the Army’s first female cannoneer?

Pfc. Katherine Beatty is the U. S. military’s first woman to become a cannon crewmember. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty is the U. S. military’s first woman to become a cannon crewmember. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

“They said I could pick a different MOS,” she said of her nine-week holdover after basic combat training. The combat specialty of 13B cannon crewmember was on the list.

“They said there was a lot of heavy lifting, and it’s a pretty high-speed job, and I would be the first female,” she said. “I was pretty excited about it. I called my husband (in Inverness, Florida) He’s infantry and works side by side with 13 Bravos. He told me what to expect, and I just went for it.”

Not only did she pass, she excelled, earning the title of distinguished honor graduate for Class No. 12-16. She was assistant platoon guide and helped teach her peers. She also earned the top scores in several exams and passed her go/no go events, including the High Physical Demand Test, the first time.

She said none of it was easy, especially the first week.

The Army’s new HPDT was in place for the first time, and men and women both need to pass it to graduate from 13B school.

She said the most difficult task was loading and unloading 15 155mm ammunition shells, weighing nearly 100 pounds apiece.

“That was pretty tough,” she said. “We had 15 minutes to do it.”

That means moving 3,000 pounds – a feat even some men couldn’t do.

Pfc. Katherine Beatty’s platoon fired three shells apiece to qualify on the M119A3 howitzer during live-fire training March 1, 2016 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty’s platoon fired three shells apiece to qualify on the M119A3 howitzer during live-fire training March 1, 2016 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

“I did power lifting and trained with my husband, Charles (before enlisting),” she said of her ability to pass the test. She also went to the gym in her spare time while at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She said Charles is her hero because of all the support he’s given her.

Beatty earned high praise from her primary AIT instructor, Staff Sgt. Michael Prater, as well as her battle buddies.

“She’s held her own as an APG, as far as leading the Soldiers where they need to be, keeping up with who’s on sick call, who’s in formation, and who’s not,” Prater said after her platoon’s live-fire training in March. “She took good notes and kept up with the training. Pfc. Beatty was an excellent Soldier.”

Pvt. Marc Etinne, one of Beatty’s battle buddies, said initially he wasn’t sure how things were going to work out with a woman in a combat MOS.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be interesting,’” he said. “But then the sergeant talked to us and said anybody in Army green, we have to treat them with respect. She really surprises me with all the physical stuff she can do. She’s been treated just like everybody else. She’s a great Soldier.”

Another battle buddy, Pvt. Jesse Hurtado, agreed. He said having a woman in his 13B class was “awesome.”

“She worked a lot harder than the males did at some point,” he said. “She proved herself. She made her battle buddies push harder because she was there pushing with them. She’s an inspiration, seeing her going through what we’re doing. We all love her. She’s an awesome battle buddy. We all want her to do great in her career.”

Beatty’s platoon specialized in the 105mm lightweight towed M119A3 howitzer. Even though those shells weigh about 30 pounds, all 13B Soldiers need to be able to meet the physical standard with the 155mm shells used in the M777 and the Paladin howitzers. They also need to be able to drag a casualty in combat, so part of the HPDT is to drag a 270-pound skid 20 meters out and back.

Although the physical part of training was grueling, Beatty said she loved it. She and her husband have taken their 2-year-old daughter hiking and lead an active life, she said. Being the first woman wasn’t as much of an obstacle as she thought.

“Everyone treats me like a Soldier, like part of the team,” she said. “There was a lot of positivity from my platoon, the instructors, the NCOs. It’s been really awesome.”

Pfc. Katherine Beatty records firing data during dry-fire training Feb. 24, 2016, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during 13B cannon crewmember school. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty records firing data during dry-fire training Feb. 24, 2016, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during 13B cannon crewmember school. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)

Week 4 of training was hands-on dry fire with the M119A3. March 1, her class fired on the equipment they were trained on. Booms from the M777 and the Paladin interspersed with shots fired from Beatty’s team. Finally, it was her turn.

She fired three rounds, then caught the next gunner’s smoking cartridge when it was ejected, and spent time on the radio and recording firing data. When the last round was called, Prater took out a marker and began writing on the shell. Pens materialized and everyone squeezed in to leave their message on it. Beatty’s read “Miss 13B.”

Then she returned to the radio and called, “last round!” The excited cannoneers echoed her, and rushed the round into the chamber. Prater checked the round, held up his hand, and yelled, “stand by,” for the umpteenth time that day. Then he dropped his arm and yelled, “fire!” The round sped off into the distant hillside, and everyone cheered. Then they started tearing down and had a late lunch of meals, ready to eat.

“Everyone was excited in our platoon. I can definitely say that we had a lot of fun today. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Beatty said.

Although she hoped to go to Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., Beatty was assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, following her graduation March 11.

Dozens of women have followed in Beatty’s footsteps to train as 13Bs, and plenty more are still to come. Her advice to them: “Go for it. It’s an awesome job. You’ve got to be strong, both physically and mentally, but there’s definitely a lot of support here.”

Pfc. Katherine Beatty gives tips to her teammate, who is holding four excess gunpowder bags that weren’t needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer in March at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)
Pfc. Katherine Beatty gives tips to her teammate, who is holding four excess gunpowder bags that weren’t needed for the three-increment charge during live-fire training on the M119A3 howitzer in March at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo by Cindy McIntyre / Fort Sill Tribune)