5th AR Sisters-in-Arms director, panel advise UTEP cadets

First Sgt. Gloria Belk, Patriot missile crewmember and first sergeant for Company A, 5th Battalion, 52nd ADA, 11th ADA Brigade, discusses her combat arms experience during the Sisters-in-Arms panel discussion with the University of Texas at El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, Nov. 1, at UTEP’s campus. Belk has served more than 17 years as a Patriot missile crew member. Photos by Capt. John Brimley, 5th AR, First Army Division West Public Affairs.

First Sgt. Gloria Belk, Patriot missile crewmember and first sergeant for Company A, 5th Battalion, 52nd ADA, 11th ADA Brigade, discusses her combat arms experience during the Sisters-in-Arms panel discussion with the University of Texas at El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, Nov. 1, at UTEP’s campus. Belk has served more than 17 years as a Patriot missile crew member. Photos by Capt. John Brimley, 5th AR, First Army Division West Public Affairs.

By Capt. John Brimley, 5th AR, First Army Division West Public Affairs:

A female captain made it clear to the male and female cadets with the University of Texas at El Paso Reserve Officer Training Corps at a 5th Armored Brigade Sisters-in-Arms panel about the Army’s 2020 integration that job performance is a key principle of success, Nov. 1.

“Commanding an infantry FSC (forward support company) under Col. (Gideon) Weiss was one of the most rewarding jobs in my military career,” said Maj. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer and Sisters-in-Arms director. “What made it successful was that he didn’t treat me, or my company, based on gender.”

“The only thing that matters is if you can do the job,” Soria added. “It was a really great relationship.”

From Feb. 2007 to 2008, Soria served as the Foxtrot FSC commander in direct support to the Illinois National Guard 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment. The FSC’s were a new concept for the Army and a female Soldier, commander, to be working directly for an infantry battalion was uncharted waters.

Despite her initial trepidation, she knew it ultimately came down to how she integrated her unit and herself into the mission.

Maj. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer and Sisters-in-Arms director, looks on during the panel discussion as her peers impress upon the UTEP ROTC cadets the importance of embracing change.

Maj. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer and Sisters-in-Arms director, looks on during the panel discussion as her peers impress upon the UTEP ROTC cadets the importance of embracing change.

“I remember standing in an open field talking to Col. Weiss and a couple of other commanders when … Weiss decided to test our skills and our leadership,” said Soria. “Foxtrot Company excelled during this impromptu test, which was comprised of hooking up a (Humvee) sling load without error.”

Soria’s Soldiers passed the test and assessment demonstrating to fellow units they were fully mission capable.

“It was the first time we were able to show not only the commander, but the rest of the line units that we were competent in our skills,” said Soria. “We were there to support and we were there to stay.”

Soria’s experience with combat arms Soldiers and units is that many female war fighters have worked alongside in an effective manner for the past 10 years.

The panel consisted of a diverse group of male and female captains, sergeant first classes, a first sergeant, a master sergeant, the brigade commander and brigade command sergeant major.

“They all brought so many different experiences to the table to share with us,” said Cadet LaTondra Moultrie. “I think it’ll make a huge impact on females going forward.”

Maj. Robert Pantoja, career infantryman and operations officer for 1st Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 5th Armored Bgde., First Army Division West, sat on the panel and delivered the message of mentorship and leadership from a Task Force Warhawg perspective.

“These young men and women will see many issues and have discussions similar to this throughout their military careers and exposing them to this topic will prepare them for the future,” said Pantoja.

First Sgt. Gloria Belk, Patriot missile crewmember and first sergeant for Company A, 5th Bn., 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said she has had to prove herself, not because she had to, but because she wanted to be treated equally.

“People doubted me. They always tried to help me because I was female. They always tried to put me in the office,” Belk said. “I didn’t allow them to treat me any differently, and because of that, they accepted me.”

During the conference the cadets were attentive because as the war winds down, the Army’s personnel numbers are going to change. The Army’s 2020 integration guidelines are becoming better known, but the panel members’ knowledge was limited at this time.

The cadets were interested in the Army’s future staffing.

“I appreciate them for coming out and bringing that information because a lot of it I didn’t know at all,” said Moultrie. “I hope when more information comes … the group can come back.”

The 2020 integration, a work in progress, has more than 14,000 positions slated to become available. The goal is to open all jobs, positions, branches and MOSs to women by January 2016.

“I’m an infantryman, but I’ve had females on the asymmetrical battlefield with me,” said Col. Raul Gonzalez, commander of 5th Armored Bde., First Army Div. West. “It’s not out of the norm, as we’ve been doing it for a decade, but we’re just now making it official.”

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