Face of Defense: Woman Leads Bradley Crew to ‘Top Gun’ Status
By Heather Graham-Ashley
FORT HOOD, Texas, July 11, 2014 Army Maj. Chrissy Cook made history in the 1st Cavalry Division last month when she led her Bradley fighting vehicle crew to "Top Gun" status during gunnery exercise, making her the first female Bradley commander to do so.
Army Maj. Chrissy Cook sits at the helm of her Bradley fighting vehicle during a media opportunity at Fort Hood, Texas, July 7, 2014. In June, Cook led her crew to her battalion’s "Top Gun" title in a gunnery exercise. U.S. Army photo by Heather Graham-Ashley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Cook, an engineer officer and for 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, led her crew to a top score of 835 with nine of 10 engagements as the Army continues to open doors to women in direct combat roles.
The engineer branch has long been open to women. "We are all trained the same," Cook said, noting that female engineers were not authorized to go into a combat arms unit until reaching the rank of major. "That's been open for awhile," she added.
When her unit's Bradley gunnery came up, Cook filled in for her battalion commander. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," she said. She and her crew trained for six months -- mostly on nights and weekends, because of Cook's work commitments.
"We went through the same things as other crews," Cook said. "We had the same struggles as everyone else, but my crew had the added struggle of working around my schedule." Still, she added, her Bradley crew is a happy one and shares the same camaraderie that close-quarters training and working environments commonly breed.
She said her crew does not look at her as a woman, but as a qualified officer. "I haven't been treated any differently," Cook said. "They didn't look at me as a female. They looked at me as a leader and as a soldier."
Her crew agreed that Cook is no different from other commanders.
"She's just another commander. I didn't think about it any differently," explained Army Pfc. Paul Kurashewich, Bradley driver. "She's a good Bradley commander."
Army 2nd Lt. Arnulfo Ahumada, jump Bradley commander for the crew, said working with competent female leaders is nothing new for him, as he was surrounded by them while attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. "They always kept up, and some were better [than the male cadets]," he said.
Cook credits her crew with the success they have found under her leadership. "It's all about the crew," she said. "I wouldn't be here today if not for the crew."
Her family also played an integral role in preparing her for gunnery, she said, as her 8-year-old son helped her with chair drills at home. "I tell him he's part of history, too," she added.
Cook also had the support of her husband, an executive officer with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and her 5-year-old daughter. She said she hopes her efforts send a message to her children.
"I want them to know they can do anything they want," she said.
Cook is quick to note that she is not the first female Bradley commander, but said she is optimistic that more roles will continue to open to women. She offered some advice to other women who are moving into jobs that historically were done only by men.
"It's tough -- any adjustment is tough," she said. "It's about standards. Your leadership, your drive, will get you through."