In the joint Army and Marine course, the Corps' newest artillery officers met operationally relevant, gender-neutral military occupational specialty standards in order to graduate. This approach matches qualified Marines with the most suitable occupations in an effort to enhance the combat readiness of the force.
“The officer's course here is difficult,” said Col. Wayne Harrison, commanding officer, Marine Detachment Fort Sill. “It has a mix of technical and physical requirements that challenges the students.”
One of the female officers who passed the course was 2nd Lt. Virginia Brodie. She graduated number one of the 137 students in both the gunnery portion of the course and in overall score and was recognized as her class' distinguished honor graduate.
“I really love this job and want to be a fire direction officer in a fire direction center, so that makes it easy to put in the extra time and effort,” Brodie said.
2nd Lt. Katherine Boy graduated the 19-week course as well. She finished in the top five percent of her class and was named one of the class' honor graduates.
Second Lt. Katherine Boy, right, leads a fire direction center at the Field Artillery Basic Officers Leadership Course at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, May 12, 2016. The fire direction center is responsible for calculating and transmitting fire coordinates to the gun line. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Julien Rodarte)
Their path to the operating forces was no different than their classmates. Like all officers, they first had to earn a commission from a four-year college, a military academy or an enlisted-to-officer program, then attend The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. At TBS, officers receive six months of training and education and are selected and assigned to an MOS-producing school based on their performance, needs of the service and personal preference.
When the Department of Defense opened all jobs previously closed to women, Brodie and Boy became eligible for selection to artillery school. With the support of their leadership, they volunteered and were ultimately assigned with others from their TBS class to train at Fort Sill.
Throughout the five-month course, officers learned everything they need to know about fire support and gunnery to be an effective field artillery leader.
“In fire support, they are the eyes and the ears,” said Capt. Isaac Williams, an instructor at the course. “They're the ones actually observing the round and making corrections to make sure the round hits the target.”
Fire support Marines send enemy locations to the fire direction center, which uses what the students learn in the gunnery portion of the course to deliver fire.
Students at the Field Artillery Basic Officers Leadership Course conduct firing drills at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, May 11, 2016. Marine officers spend five months at the school learning how to lead their Marines in the artillery field. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Julien Rodarte)
“The gunnery side of this course is extremely difficult,” said 2nd Lt. Marlin Adams, a student at the course. “There is a lot of math and specific details into making sure we're delivering timely, accurate and safe fire from our howitzers.”
Instructors and leadership from the artillery course said that even though these are the first female Marine artillery officers completing the course, nothing has changed.br>
“The Army has [already] integrated females in this MOS for quite a while, so nothing really has changed in the way that we instruct the students,” said Williams. “We are not going to raise or lower the standards. The standards have been set. Marines need to keep above an 80 percent academically and pass all of the physical tasks. If they can't meet this they will not become an artillery officer.”
The course will continue maintaining standards to produce the best artillery officers possible.
Boy said she is thankful she had the opportunity to be in the course and is excited to see what artillery has for her future.
“I think everyone brings their own mindset and way of thinking, and the more variety of people that you can get in an MOS who are excited to be there and willing to work hard, the better its going to be to accomplish that MOS's mission,” said Boy.
The Marines will participate in Marine Artillery Officer Basic Course and receive instruction in joint fires observation, target mensuration operations, Marine logistics and a command post exercise before officially receiving their 0802 MOS and reporting to their first duty station.
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By U.S. Marine Corps LCpl. Julien Rodarte
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