South Korea, U.S. leaders discuss integrating women into field artillery
JANGSUNG, South Korea -- Leaders from 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, visited the Republic of Korea Field Artillery School here, April 1, to discuss integrating women into the field artillery career field.
The visit featured a junior officer exchange between five female U.S. Army field artillery lieutenants and the first six female field artillery officers of the Republic of Korea, or ROK, army, currently students at the ROK Field Artillery School.
"These six women, where they go, and what they do, will set the tone," said Col. Michael Lawson, commander of 210th Field Artillery Brigade, commenting on the impact the first women in ROK field artillery will have.
During the junior officer exchange, the women had a candid discussion on everything from why they chose field artillery, to what challenges and issues they have faced, all things the ROK lieutenants were concerned about as the first-ever females.
"It's the closest that a female can get to being in combat," said 2nd Lt. Jillian Mueller, a native of Lakefield, Minn. "It's combat arms, and that's what I wanted to do."
The women from 210th Field Artillery Brigade, each shared similar experiences as one of only a few women in the U.S. field artillery, both in school, and in their units.
"In artillery school, I was the only girl in my platoon, and it was fine that I slept in a tent with the boys," said 2nd Lt. Dong Hwa Lee, the liaison officer for 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment and a native of Tamuning, Guam.
ROK 2nd Lt. Kim Yuna asked how U.S. units are dealing with females being in the field with males and how the U.S. Army addresses living conditions.
"I'm in the field right now, and we have a tiny tracked vehicle. You can fit three people in it, and I sleep there every night with my guys," said Mueller, the executive officer of A Battery, 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, and the only female in her unit. "We are so tired. It's so uncomfortable. If we get to sleep, we are happy to sleep anywhere."
In the ROK army, units have to set up a separate tent for females in the field because it is a big deal in Korean culture for males and females who are not married to stay in the same living space, explained 2nd Lt. Hwang Hee-jeong.
"It's good to see how their struggles are different from ours," said 2nd Lt. Alexandria De Luna, from Weslaco, Texas.
While discussing their different challenges, the junior officers also found ways they were very alike.
"It was eye-opening being able to be there and learn first-hand their passion for field artillery and how it's similar to ours," said De Luna, the executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment.
The female officers got to know each other over a social lunch, and guided tour of the ROK women's barracks.
"The most lasting impression to me was how similar they are to us," said 2nd Lt. Raeseana Phelps, a native of Fort Knox, Ky. and the ammunition officer for 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery Regiment. "All the questions they had are the questions females in the U.S. Army had coming into field artillery."
The female officers joined senior leaders from the ROK Field Artillery School, and 210th Field Artillery Brigade, for a conference about integrating women into the field artillery. The discussion included a comparison of the ROK and U.S. field artillery education systems, and opportunities for females to serve.
Since the U.S. Army opened all positions to field artillery officers in January 2014, Maj. Gen. Oh Jeong-il, commandant of the ROK Field Artillery School, expects the ROK army to follow in a few years.
"The goodness of what the U.S. Army is doing, and what the ROK army is doing is, it's opening up opportunities for officers who have skills, and for officers who can think," said Lawson.
The ROK army opened field artillery to female officers beginning with these six students, but still does not allow women to serve in some positions, such as cannon battery executive officer or forward observer.
The ROK army continues not to allow enlisted women in field artillery, while the U.S. Army recently opened those positions. Enlisted field artillery women began joining units in November 2013.
"We have a set of physical standards to ensure that, male or female, a Soldier isn't put into a job that they are not capable of doing," said Lawson.
The visit began with a tour of the school's museum and an overview of ROK field artillery. The leaders got an up-close view of Hwacha, Korea's first multiple launch system.
The group ended the visit with a tour of current ROK artillery equipment, including the K9 self-propelled howitzer and the K10 ammunition loading vehicle.