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.
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
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
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