Lone female in platoon pulling weight in Iraq
Mideast edition, Sunday, August 26, 2007
BAGHDAD — Being a woman in today’s Army isn’t easy. Deployments, marriage and children can all be challenges for members of an Army engaged on multiple battle fronts worldwide.
Pvt. Davena Fuller, 20, doesn’t have to worry about a husband or children just yet. But being the only female soldier in her Army platoon — a platoon, like most, filled to the brim with male bravado — isn’t easy either.
However, according to the East Detroit native, she doesn’t mind.
“When I first came in, they told me I was going to be the only female in an all-male unit,” she said Thursday while driving a Humvee on an Iraqi highway used as a supply route to Baghdad. “I’m used to it — it doesn’t bother me.”
And why would she be bothered? With four younger brothers back home, she’s used to being around the boys. Fuller also has a younger sister and an older sister.
There are four other women in the company of which her platoon, the 3rd, is a part. All are assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment — part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
And what does Mom think of her being in the Army, or being at war in Iraq?
“My mom was real excited about [the Army], until I had to deploy,” said Fuller, the lowest ranking member of her platoon.
“She knows I’m OK, but she’s like every other parent who doesn’t want her child to be over here.”
Fuller defies her slim 5-foot-6 build and carries her own weight within the unit.
Qualified, expertly, on the M-240 and M-249 machine guns and the M-4 and M-16 rifles, she can boast a marksman record better than many others in the Army. She is even qualified on the deafening .50-caliber machine gun, a weapon that can topple nearly anything if it pelts it long enough.
According to the company’s executive officer, Capt. Jeff Quail, 27 and a native of Sheboygan, Wis., and Spc. Kevin Page, 34, of LaCrosse, Wis., everyone gets along with Fuller. Both routinely ride with her while performing convoy duties, with Fuller always taking the wheel and Page manning the turret.
“It’s pretty normal,” said Page, who is on his second tour in Iraq.
But the real person to gauge troop performance is always the “Top” and in the case of this company, that would be 1st Sgt. Richard Caballero, 41.
“Normally with the females, the tendency is to place them in low-density jobs. But with Fuller, there was just a sense that there was something about her,” the Killeen, Texas, native said.
“She’s performed well and done a good job for us ... we could tell right off that she had a fire.”
Fuller, who is 18 months into a three-year enlistment commitment, said she fully plans to re-enlist when the time comes.
She is studying for her battalion’s soldier-of-the-month competition, which includes testing on job knowledge, Army codes and regulations, weapons skills and other areas, such as map and field manual aptitude.