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Women Warriors: JBLM soldiers lead change in Army policy

First Army females to qualify on the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System

PV2 Haley Bollheimer and Spc. Tara Forester, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Regiment are the first females to qualify on the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in the Army. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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Change comes slowly in the Army.

"It's cool that we are the first females to serve in a combat unit," PV2 Haley Bollheimer said recently as we sat in the 1st Battalion, 17th Fires Brigade's headquarters.

"Allowing females to serve in combat roles is something that could have been done 20 years ago."

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta overruns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

The military services have until January 2016 to seek special exception if they believe any position must remain closed to women.

Panetta's move opens approximately 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the Army. The decision to make this change could open more than 230,000 jobs to women.

"I have a great deal of pride in being able to serve in a front-line unit," Spc. Tara Forester added.

"We are opening a door for other female soldiers to walk through."

Both soldiers are the first of the females to qualify on the M142 Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery.

A rapidly deployable, all-weather fire support delivery platform, the HIMARS delivers extremely accurate precision munitions to targets at ranges from 25 to 300 kilometers.

A three-soldier team consisting of a crew chief, a driver and a gunner serve the HIMARs.

For both Bollheimer and Forester, they recently completed intensive training at the Yakima Training Center in October.

They impressed their male counterparts.

"They were great; there is no difference in how they performed and other male soldiers performed," Spc. Nathan Goodall, 17th Fires Brigade pointed out.

"We've been made to feel a part of the team," Bollheimer said. "The change is good." 

"That's right," Forester added.  "We can do what we strive to do."

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