Wife, mother becomes first female cannoneer graduate
Six months into her Army career, a young wife and mother has made history by becoming the first woman to graduate from advanced individual training (AIT) as a cannon crew member.
Pfc. Katherine Beatty of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 78th Field Artillery, emerged from five weeks of training as the distinguished honor graduate in a class of nearly 150.
Although her place was on the back row of the formation, she was the first in a line of eight class members to mount the stage for award presentations. When the awards had been handed out, she took the place of the platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Shannon Johnson, in the forefront, and it was he who pinned on her crossed cannons insignia last of all.
At the conclusion of the ceremony it fell to Beatty to call out the cadence for her fellow class members as they exited the room.
She said afterward that she worked very hard this cycle to achieve that distinction.
"I'm very honored and proud of myself that I did that," she said. "I wouldn't say I had to work extra hard. I just did what was expected and kept up with the guys."
Long before she entered the military, she was lifting weights at the gym five or six times a week with her husband. They practiced powerlifting, doing dead-lift squats and bench presses. That proved beneficial in AIT when she had to load and unload 15 155mm shells weighing nearly 100 pounds apiece.
She arrived here for basic training in September. A first sergeant there alerted her to the fact that the 13 Bravo military occupational specialty (MOS) was opening up to female soldiers and she had a chance to be the first.
Her NCOs explained all the physical demands and what the MOS consisted of.
"It just sounded really awesome, so I just wanted to go for it," she said.
Her husband, Charles, is currently a sergeant in the Florida Army National Guard, and she had a conversation with him about it as well. His branch is infantry, but he works side by side with 13 Bravos and he told her what to expect.
"He was a little leery at first, but he said he could tell I really wanted to do it," she said.
"It was pretty exciting, actually, and I was up for the challenge. And I just wanted to pave the path, to show females that we can do it," Beatty said.
She met with a positive response while going through the course. She says she had no real problems, though for the first couple of weeks her male peers in Class 12-16 shied away from talking with her or sitting next to her on the bus. Eventually the tension eased, and they became battle buddies.
"Everyone was really awesome. Everyone was really welcoming," she found.
"I just feel like part of the team, one of the guys," Beatty said. "They just made me so welcome, I really don't feel any different than anyone else."
Guest speaker for the ceremony was Command Sgt. Maj. Randall Dawson of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery, and he remarked that history was made Friday with the graduation of the first female cannoneer.
"Today we welcome you into the field artillery," Dawson told the assemblage. "You are all warriors, trained soldiers who are now ready and capable of defending this great nation."
Beatty's husband was unable to attend as he was back in Tampa taking care of their 2-year-old daughter, Brynlee.