By Heather Graham-Ashley
FORT HOOD, Texas (July 8, 2014) — Maj. Chrissy Cook made history in the 1st Cavalry Division two weeks ago when she led her Bradley crew to “Top Gun” status during gunnery, making her the first female Bradley commander to do so.
Cook, an engineer officer and S-3 for 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who led her crew to a top score of 835 with nine of 10 engagements, passed to seal “Top Gun” status June 17, as well as a page in the history books as the Army continues to open doors to female service members for service in direct combat roles. As an engineer, Cook’s branch has long been open to males and females.
“We are all trained the same,” she 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,” Cook 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,” Cook said.
She and her crew trained for six months — mostly on nights and weekends because of Cook’s S-3 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, 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 female, 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 than other commanders.
“She’s just another commander; I didn’t think about it any differently,” explained Pfc. Paul Kurashewich, Bradley driver. “She’s a good Bradley commander.”
Second 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 as her 8-year-old son helped her with chair drills at home.
“I tell him he’s part of history, too,” Cook said.
She also had the support of her husband, an executive officer with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and her 5-year-old daughter.
Cook said she hopes her efforts send a message to her young children.
“I want them to know they can do anything they want,” she said.
Other than that, Cook said she hasn’t really thought about the historical implications of her achievement until the media opportunity for Tuesday was presented.
“In the last 24 hours, it hit me,” she said.
Cook is quick to note that she is not the first female Bradley commander, but she is optimistic that more roles will continue to open to female troops.
“It’s tough, any adjustment is tough,” Cook said about her transition into a predominately historically male position and her advice to other females. “It’s about standards. Your leadership, your drive will get you through.”