Face of defense: Officer blazes field artillery trail for women

Every walk of life has its pioneers and trailblazers who pave the way for the next generation. The Army is no exception.

What’s it like for women in the military — especially when their service isn’t in just any division of the armed forces, but the Artillery Regiment? Get some insight here.

Face of defense: Officer blazes field artillery trail for women

by Army Staff Sgt. Chris McCullough, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division

The predominately male discipline of field artillery has had a few firsts for women, such as fire direction officers in Mobile Launch Rocket System teams and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System crews.

But when Army 2nd Lt Taylor Cardosi arrived at the 7th Infantry Division’s 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, she became one of the first women to serve as a fire direction officer in an M777A1 howitzer cannon unit.

Cardosi, 22, a native of Stillwater, Massachusetts, serves in the 1st Battalion, 37th Artillery Regiment fire direction center.

“We get fire missions from our battalion, which come from the maneuvers section,” she said. “We process the data and send it to the guns.”

Cardosi’s appointment was hot on the heels of the Defense Department’s decision to open all military jobs to women eventually. While some positions remain closed as officials work out details, the fire direction officer field opened to women only days after Cardosi’s December 27, 2012, entry into active duty.

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“I was 100 percent surprised when I got here,” she said. “I just showed up, and I immediately went to the field.”

From quitting ballet to joining ROTC

Cardosi’s admission into the male-dominated field probably is no surprise to those who know her. All her life, she said, she has strived to succeed in activities not usually associated with young ladies, beginning with her decision to quit ballet.

“I told my mom I hated it and wanted to do karate, like my brother was,” she said. “My parents let me choose whatever I wanted.”

Her perseverance continued into college, where she earned a double major in political science and women in gender studies, and enrolled in the Army ROTC program.

“When I kind of heard about the ROTC aspect, I knew that it was perfect for me,” Cardosi said. “Then I went to school, I got a scholarship and tried to enter the Army. At the time, I didn’t even know what I would be doing in the military. I didn’t have any idea of the jobs that were available or ones that I would be interested in doing, either. I really didn’t decide until my junior year that I wanted to do field artillery.”

While at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, Cardosi was an essential member of her row team. She said that experience translates well to her service in the Army.

“I had a strong team, and the Army is like that,” she said. “You have your squad or your team, your teammates or your buddies. In rowing, there are eight people in a boat. You have to combine them to do your best. Same thing [in the Army]: our guys have to watch each other or people get hurt.”

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Not a male or female thing – just a respect thing

Cardosi credited her platoon sergeant, Army Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Guerard, with helping her to learn the ropes.

“I think he’s probably one of the best platoon sergeants in the Army,” she said. “He knows his job, and he pretty much took me under his wing, because I really didn’t know anything about artillery units that much. He just treats me like any other officer. It’s not really a male or female thing. He treats me with the same respect.”

Guerard, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, acknowledged that his platoon was a little apprehensive at first, because the idea of a female artilleryman was something new to them. But Cardosi’s work ethic at Yakima Training Center during the brigade’s training exercise in October, he added, showed him and his soldiers that there is no difference between Cardosi and her male counterparts.

“She strives to do great things,” Guerard said. “She’s already setting herself apart from her peers. Absolutely, there is no difference. She’s just another one of the team.”

Cardosi said she hopes to continue to serve for many years to come.

“I like to think that I want this as a career,” she said. “I’m patient enough to wait and, when that time arrives, prove that I should have been there all along. For now, that’s the plan — make it a career and become a battalion commander, a brigade commander, a general.”

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