FORT IRWIN, Calif. - More and more combat roles previously reserved for men only are opening up to women.
The group from Fort Carson that recently made the trip to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California included a number of female cannoneers.
They are among the first ever in the Army.
Last year, the Army opened up nearly 140,000 positions in field artillery, infantry, and special forces to women.
But the announcement came with its share of skepticism.
A 2015 gender study by the Marines found units with females were less accurate with a rifle, slower at evacuating casualties, and had a higher injury rate than males.
In 2016, nearly 1 in four active duty women reported being sexually harassed.
However, the Army's Vice Chief of Staff told the House Armed Services Committee in February that gender integration has gone a long way to increase Army readiness.
"We are all achieving higher levels of readiness now that we are are opening it up to 100% of America to be able to contribute," said General Daniel Allyn.
For Private First Class Tianna Langdon, joining the Army was all she ever wanted to do.
"There was no other option, no Plan B, no nothing, it was always military," explains Langdon, who now services with the 2-12 Field Artillery unit at Fort Carson.
However, Langdon almost didn't enlist at all.
The first few times she went to her local recruiting station, there were simply no positions that appealed to her.
But in 2015, her recruiter told her about the field artillery openings.
"He explained it to me, showed a video to me, and I was like 'there's no question, I'm in, I'll take it," she recalled.
Her M777 Howitzer can hit a target up to 15 miles away.
As soon as it fires, it relocates to avoid enemy counterattacks, and from setup to tear down it is especially strenuous, according to her lieutenant.
"Digging in the spades, there are obviously heavy pieces of equipment that they're pushing to get on azimuth of fire, so it's definitely a physically demanding job," explained Lt. Delaney O'hara.
Langdon's job as Assistant Gunner is to raise or lower the barrel, based on the quadrant where the target is located.
In her short time with the unit, she has become attached to not only her howitzer but also her male counterparts.
"This is my family," she says proudly, "I'm close with them. they have my back. I have theirs. It's just like we're all very close, and we all take pride in this. We all share this. We all have this in common."
The head of all Army forces says the roughly 300 women filling these positions are meeting expectations.
General Robert Abrams said, "They're performing very well. They're forward deployed now in eastern Europe. They're in the 3rd brigade, 4th ID, they're doing a fantastic job."
Langdon admits there were those who doubted her and still doubt her, but she and field commanders all over the battlefield say it all comes down to a simple question..... whether you can do the job.
"I never woke up every day thinking about what other people thought. I woke up every day thinking I have a job to do, this is my job. And I'd like to think I do it well," she said.
1st SBCT Command Sergeant Major Chad Brown agrees.
"Bottom line is I need someone to sit up on that damn hill and I need them to look through binos and not fall asleep and not drink all their water in the first hour they're up there. I don't care if you're a man or a woman. If you can do that for me, and you can call in an attack, you're being an American soldier, and that's what we need."
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