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Minnesota National Guard
Female Soldier Answers Call to Fire

2LT Andrea Peterson ST PAUL, Minn- When 2nd Lt Andrea Petersen joined the Minnesota National Guard as an officer candidate in 2011, her goals were slightly less lofty than breaking new ground in a military occupation that was previously off limits to female Soldiers

"I wanted to become a better leader, to strengthen myself both physically and mentally," Petersen said "I felt that being an officer would present challenges I wouldn't otherwise experience, which was exciting to me"

It wouldn't be until Phase II of Officer Candidate School, however, that Petersen got the idea to push herself even further

"One of my classmates, who had came to OCS after being a sergeant in a field artillery unit, arranged a training experience to view a live fire exercise," said Petersen "I think this really sealed the deal on which branch I wanted to be a part of"

The camaraderie and excitement Petersen felt as gunnery crews fired artillery rounds downrange was unlike anything she had experienced And with the Department of Defense having just rescinded the Ground Combat Exclusion Rule, which barred female Soldiers from combat units, Petersen would be able to pursue her new passion

"It was everything I wanted, and it was a chance to step out of my comfort zone even more," Petersen said

Her standout performance throughout OCS led to direct recommendations from her leadership to re-branch into one of the Army's most challenging fields After OCS, she would be one of five female Soldiers accepted into a class of 140 young officers attempting to complete the Army's Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Sill, Okla

"It was really intense, long days and very exhausting," Petersen said of the training "It is so involved, and there is so much to learn with all the calculations and variables needed to fire artillery safely and effectively"

After five months of intensive training, Petersen graduated in May 2014 Nearly 10 percent of the students didn't complete the school, but Petersen and the other four females all did

Her first assignment after receiving her field artillery qualifications would be as a Fire Direction Officer in Battery A, 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery - a unit that had never had a female Soldier serve in this kind of leadership role Petersen was well aware that earning her Soldiers' respect and performing her duties at a high level would be a challenge, albeit one that was becoming less of a burden

"As a female, I joined knowing that I would be in the minority," Petersen said "Knowing that would be the normal for me, however, made it less difficult to transition to a mostly-male unit

"The real challenge now is that I'm no longer in training," Petersen continued "I'm an officer, and I don't have the experience that long-time members of this unit have I'm driven in that I don't want to let anyone down, and Soldiers in my unit know that I'm here to learn"

Currently Petersen is developing her leadership skills as a platoon leader in the battery's maintenance platoon while preparing to serve as the battalion's Fire Direction Officer for an upcoming National Training Center rotation in June at Fort Irwin, Calif

"My experience with the unit has been very positive," Petersen said "I feel I belong here"

January 14, 2015
by Staff Sgt Patrick Loch
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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