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Army Women Qualify for Tank Maintenance Duty

By Nick Duke

Four female soldiers, including two with the Army National Guard, made history here Aug. 1 when they became the first women in the Army to obtain the 91A M1 Abrams Tank System Maintainer military occupational specialty.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Pvts. Kaitlin Killsnight, left, Emma Briggs, center, and Erika Leroy work on an Abrams tank simulator during training in the 91A Abrams tank maintainers’ course at Fort Benning, Ga. U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Pfc. Emma Briggs, the honor graduate of the course, is in the 737th Support Company, Ohio Army National Guard. Pvt. Erika L. Leroy is with the California Army National Guard. They graduated with Pfc. Anna Ramirez and Pvt. Kaitlin Killsnight from the 91A course conducted by E Company, 3rd Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade.

Both Briggs and Leroy said they did not know they were going to be the first female Abrams maintainers until they arrived at Fort Benning.

“I didn’t know I was going to be one of the first females until I got to basic training, and one of the drill sergeants mentioned it to me and told me how hard it was going to be,” said Leroy, a San Diego native.

Briggs, of Cincinnati, said she had no prior mechanical experience before coming to the course, but that she was eager to learn.

“When I first joined, it was kind of a process of elimination,” Briggs said. “I was given a lot of choices, anywhere from a human resources job to other types of desk and supply jobs. I have no mechanic background, but I was excited to learn. It’s awesome to be a female and know some of these things, and maybe I’ll be able to translate this into some kind of car mechanics or even go into that field in the future.”

Briggs and Leroy attended basic training together, where they formed a friendship that both said has been beneficial to them throughout the tank maintainer training.

Leroy said watching Briggs complete tasks helped to make her more confident.

“I didn’t know how to act or how to handle the stress of knowing that you’re going to be picking up a 110-pound part, but watching her do it made me believe that I could do it,” Leroy said.

Both Briggs and Leroy also said they were able to lean on Killsnight and Ramirez when times got tough.

“We’ve all become very close and we have a very good relationship,” Briggs said. “We are very good at working together, and that has really helped us all because sometimes it takes a team of females to get on the tank and take care of it since you have heavy equipment and heavy stuff on the tank.”

Army Staff Sgt. Jahi Foster, one of the 91A instructors, said Briggs’ willpower was what set her apart from the rest of the class.

“She had a lot of self-motivation and she came in with the same attitude every day,” Foster said. “A lot of the students have problems and they’ve been here for months dealing with things, but she always came out with the same hard-charging, ready-to-go attitude every day.”

Briggs said she had no idea she was going to be the honor graduate until the class was put through an obstacle course.

“My sergeants were kind of helping to motivate me during it by saying things like, ‘Come on, distinguished honor graduate,’ so the whole company knew the same time I did,” she said. “I had no idea.”

With the course at an end, the four soldiers must now prepare for the responsibility of working on Abrams tanks in a real-world setting.

“It’s a lot of responsibility to take in, but I’m pretty confident,” Leroy said. “I know my material, and hopefully I’ll be able to come back here and show more females that they can do this and give them someone to relate to.”

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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