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First women enlist in Iowa National Guard combat units

This news story was published on January 10, 2016.
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Cheney M. Spaulding, 18, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, enlisted in September 2015 as a survey meteorological crewmember, becoming the first woman to enlist in an Iowa National Guard combat arms unit.

Cheney M. Spaulding, 18, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, enlisted in September 2015 as a survey meteorological crewmember, becoming the first woman to enlist in an Iowa National Guard combat arms unit.

JOHNSTON, IOWA – While the Iowa National Guard has always been committed to aggressively recruiting quality individuals from diverse populations within the state, an added strategic impetus has been placed on increasing the number of women serving as Iowa Citizen-Soldiers.

For the first time in the 176-year history of the Iowa National Guard, females are now eligible for assignments in certain combat arms, or combat support units, including Field Artillery and Combat Engineer units.

“I think, really, the sky’s the limit,” said Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, the Iowa National Guard Adjutant General. “There’s a lot of opportunity.”

Little did two high school students from northwest Iowa realize they were making history as the first women to enlist into a combat arms Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) within the Iowa National Guard. Upon completion of Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), they will assume duties with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 194th Field Artillery, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Cheney M. Spaulding, 18, of Fort Dodge, Iowa, enlisted in September, 2015, as a Survey Meteorological Crewmember (MOS: 13T) and Dakota A. Doocy, 17, from Lone Rock, Iowa, enlisted in October, 2015, as a Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator (MOS: 13R).

A 13T crewmember is responsible for monitoring weather conditions so the field artillery team can accurately fire and launch ordnance, while a 13R Soldier is responsible for detecting enemy forces and alerting friendly forces. Using a “firefinder,” a highly-specialized radar, they can detect various objects and their locations.

According to Iowa National Guard figures, approximately 15 percent of the 6,900 Soldiers serving in the Iowa Army National Guard, and 18 percent of the 1,800 members making up the Iowa Air National Guard, are women. By the same token, 14 percent of Soldiers in today’s U.S. Army and 19 percent of the U.S. Air Force are female.

Spaulding, a senior at Fort Dodge Senior High School currently carries a 3.7 grade-point-average. She’s also a part of the school’s Top Choir and Dance Team.

Besides setting the standard as the first person in her immediate family to serve in the military, she also discovered she’s the first woman to enlist in a combat arms unit of the Iowa National Guard.

“I just found out a couple of days ago that I’m the first female to join this unit and I was really excited,” Spaulding said. “I’m excited that I’m going beyond not just myself, but that I’m doing this for all other women. I’ll be taking a big step in history for both Iowa and the Iowa National Guard.”

Dakota A. Doocy, 17, from Lone Rock, Iowa, enlisted in October 2015 as a field artillery firefinder radar operator, becoming the second Iowa woman to enlist in an Iowa National Guard combat arms unit.

Dakota A. Doocy, 17, from Lone Rock, Iowa, enlisted in October 2015 as a field artillery firefinder radar operator, becoming the second Iowa woman to enlist in an Iowa National Guard combat arms unit.

Spaulding said it was Staff Sgt. Jake Brager, an Iowa National Guard recruiter who often comes to the Fort Dodge High School, who got her interested in becoming an Iowa Citizen-Soldier.

“We did some circuit training together, so I got the chance to talk him, and he told me a bit about the Iowa National Guard. It really helped that the National Guard and the government will pay for my education. That’s the main reason why I joined,” she said.

She hopes to attend the University of Oklahoma or Iowa State University to major in meteorology once she completes Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training Schools at Fort Sill, Okla.

According to Brager, a third-year recruiter for the Iowa National Guard, the Fort Dodge senior leaves quite a lasting impression.

“Spaulding said she wanted to study meteorology. We have meteorology as one of our job skills, so I thought we could cross-level her military training with her college vocation. She also wanted to be in a unit close to her home in Fort Dodge, so we were able to get her into the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery here in Fort Dodge.

“She’s very, very educated and has a positive, can-do attitude. I knew she could take that first step in being the first female to serve in the Field Artillery,” Brager said.

While this independent teenager feels she has a lot yet to learn, she said she’s learning more about the National Guard every day. “I don’t know much about what’s going on, but I’ve been learning so much about it and realize this a great opportunity to go beyond anything my family has ever done.

“I’ve always known that working hard and being independent makes you feel better. When I’m finished with all this hard work, I’ll be able to sit down and be proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished with my life,” she said.

For Dakota Doocy, a hard-working, self-assured senior at North Union High School in Armstrong, Iowa, it was simply a matter finding the right information.

“During my freshman year, I thought about joining the National Guard, but I didn’t really look into it. Last year, during my junior year, I was at a job fair and there was some National Guard stuff there, so I thought about it a little more. This year, a friend of mine was interested, so I went with her and talked to a recruiter.

That’s where Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Schacherer, the Iowa National Guard recruiter from Algona, was able to help.

“I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do, there were so many choices,” Doocy said. “My recruiter suggested I watch a video. I said yes and was pretty excited by what I saw.

“A lot of factors went into this decision and a lot of it had to do with what she wanted to do, Schacherer said. “I knew she wanted to go to the University of Northern Iowa. Based on tuition assistance figures, the additional funding she’d need for college, the fact that she’s into technology and is a very dedicated person, I figured this MOS would be the best fit for her.

“What it really came down to, as a recruiter, is doing the best I could for this particular applicant,” he said.

“Schacherer told me not many females are in this particular field, especially in the state of Iowa. I thought the job sounded pretty interesting and I want to be someone who can show that females can do anything that males can do,” she said.

Doocy, who plans on attending college at the University of Northern Iowa to become a history teacher, said she’s looking at this as a long-term commitment to the Iowa National Guard. “I don’t want to be just in-and-out. I want to make a commitment and I want to show I love what I’ll be doing,” she said.

“You just need to set a goal for yourself and achieve it. They say guys are more physical and can do more. I believe girls can do anything guys can,” she added.

“She’s very dedicated and a very motivated individual,” said Schacherer. “If she’s told she can’t do something, she’ll prove them wrong. She’s also very independent and just doesn’t give up. I think she’ll do very well.”

Both Soldiers are currently attending drill weekends at their respective Recruit Sustainment Program units – Doocy in Council Bluffs and Spaulding at Waterloo – where they are being introduced to U.S. Army fundamentals, such as rank structure, saluting, marching and physical fitness. Once they graduate from Basic and AIT, they will then assume duties within the HHB, 1-194th Field Artillery in Fort Dodge.

In January 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey announced the rescission of the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule for women and Department of Defense plans to remove gender-based barriers to service.

“Women have shown great courage and sacrifice on and off the battlefield, contributed in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission and proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles,” Panetta said. “The Department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best-qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.”

The announcement followed an extensive review by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who concluded now is the time to move forward to integrate women into occupational fields to the maximum extent possible. It built upon a February 2012 decision to open more than 14,000 additional positions to women by rescinding the co-location restriction and allowing women to be assigned to select positions in ground combat units at the battalion level.

(Story by Master Sgt. Duff E. McFadden)

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2 Responses to First women enlist in Iowa National Guard combat units

  1. Avatar

    Exit Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    The Military needs to stop discriminating against people with petty drug convictions. And the age needs to be raised to 50 to join.

  2. Avatar

    Allen Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for stepping up yo the plate, and good luck to both of you.