Braving the January 2017 wintry conditions and hectic pace, a Soldier from the Florida National Guard's 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team led the charge in a new wave of females into what has historically been an all-male combat arms environment. That Soldier was Army Sgt. Chelsea Peebles (left).
As soon as Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter opened up all combat arms to females in December 2015, Peebles jumped at the opportunity to change her military occupational specialty from military police to combat engineer or military classification of 12B.
“I've always wanted to be able to have a combat MOS, which is why I enlisted in the FLNG's MP unit,” said Peebles. “Once it became available to be a 12B, that's when I decided to go ahead, take that step and go to school for it.”
With her unit's restructuring, Peebles, who maintains peak physical readiness, seized the chance to give her maximum effort while fulfilling her dream and proving her mettle.
During her combat engineer training, Peebles tackled numerous hazardous and demanding tasks. One of those tasks was route clearance that included mine detection and live improvised explosive device removal.
Lt. Col. Elizabeth Evans, who recently became the first female 53rd Brigade Special Troops commander, praised Sgt. Peebles' achievements and recalled when combat arms opportunities were more restrictive for female Soldiers.
When Evans entered into the active Army in 2000, the only engineer positions open to women at that time were limited to administrative roles. Now, as a battalion commander, Evans fully supported the decision to send Peebles to school.
“Sgt. Peebles sets herself apart from her peers,” said Evans. “She's a strong physical performer and has a proven leadership track record. So when she decided to become a 12B, she had my full support.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Virgil Robinson, brigade Command Sgt. Maj. for the 53rd IBCT, remembered when Peebles was the first female Soldier to complete the physically arduous and mentally challenging Cavalry Spur Ride while they served together during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Robinson expressed his enthusiasm for having Peebles serve in his ranks.
“She's almost like a legend for other Soldiers,” said Robinson. “Soldiers can look at her and see that there is some opportunity out there as a female Soldier to get into a combat arms team.”
With the support of her battalion, as well as friends and family, Peebles plans to continue in the field by pursing the next level of combat engineering by attending a specialized school to earn a distinguished uniform tab. Peebles is looking forward to implementing her newfound knowledge and continue to lead by example and serve her country in every aspect that she can.
By U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Vann
Florida National Guard 107th Mobile Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
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