Louisiana National Guard Enlists First Female Field Artillery Soldier

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Female private makes history in Louisiana Army National Guard
Pvt. Journae Q. King made history for the Louisiana Army National Guard as the first woman to enlist as a field artillery automated tactical data systems specialist. (Spc. Megan V. Zander/U.S. Army)

NEW ORLEANS -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced last week that all military jobs will be open to women. For the first time in U.S. military history, gender no longer will be a deciding factor or disqualification.

The Army already had begun the process of integrating some jobs, including many field artillery positions that were opened to women in October.

On Nov. 30, Pvt. Journae Q. King made history for the Louisiana Army National Guard as the first woman to enlist as a field artillery automated tactical data systems specialist.

After completing training, King will operate communication systems, assist in the preparation of computer centers, prepare field artillery tactical data systems and determine target locations using computers or manual calculations.

King, 21, of LaPlace, graduated from East St. John High School. She was attending Southern University in Baton Rouge when the military caught her eye.

Staff Sgt. Robert C. Gregoire, King's recruiter, says opening jobs to women makes sense.

"I see female soldiers successfully complete the tasks just as well as male soldiers during drill, so this is no shocker that now they are given the opportunity," Gregoire said.

King, who played high school basketball, knew that her athletic background would help her excel during basic combat training. She also feels mentally prepared, knowing that her strong mind, positive attitude and never-quit mentality will push her through the difficult phases of basic training and advanced individual training.

"I like competition and challenges,'' King said. "It is something that someone with a weak mind couldn't do. It's a life-changing experience, serving your country.''

After looking at the list of available positions, she really liked the job description of the automated tactical data systems specialist. She said it was something she knew she would love and she couldn't wait to be the one of the first females and make history.

King will join the Louisiana Army National Guard's historic 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery Regiment, also known as the Washington Artillery.

Capt. Anthony LaNasa, 1-141 Alpha Battery commander, welcomes King.

"We look forward to having her in our battery; we put our full support behind her," LaNasa said. "This is a steppingstone for women to fight the misconception that they can't serve in combat arms. They will earn the respect and overcome this misconception."

Col. Kenneth P. Donnelly, commander of the LANG's Recruiting and Retention Battalion, supports King's decision to become an automated tactical data systems specialist.

"It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation," Donnelly said. "King has met the qualifications to become an automated tactical data systems specialist, and has proven her willingness to serve in a combat role."

King expects to encounter some challenges along the way but is prepared to face them head-on.

"I have always been a competitive person and have a never-quit attitude," King said.

King's mom gave her daughter advice on the challenges ahead.

"I'm so proud of my daughter. From the beginning, I was very supportive and knew she could do it," Rhonda King said. "I'm so glad she made the decision to join, and I told her, 'Whatever you decide, I'm going to support you.'

"Never say you can't. Try before you give up, and if you fail, try, try again. Keep on until it can't be done, and eventually you will get it.''

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