BOISE, Idaho, August 26, 2014 — Speckled with engine oil and coated with a layer of dust, 23-year-old Army Spc. Samantha Brumley rummages through a larger-than-life toolbox to begin work with her fellow tank mechanics on servicing an Abrams M1A2 System Enhancement Package Tank in the high desert area southeast from here.
Her team is at the Orchard Training Center conducting annual training in support of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. While the service to the tank’s nuclear, biological and chemical filter system is routine, Brumley’s hands-on support is not. Brumley is the first woman to officially become a tank mechanic in the Oregon Army National Guard.
Switching military jobs
“I wanted to be a nurse. I actually wanted to be a medic when I got in, but that didn’t happen,” said Brumley, who joined the Army at age 17 as a communications specialist. She later switched jobs to become an armament repairer where she maintained and fixed weapon systems. But she wanted more.
A 2013 decision by the Pentagon opened up combat roles to women. This decision provided an opportunity to Brumley. After working near Company F tank mechanics, Brumley, who hails from La Grande, Oregon, was asked if she would like to go to school to become a tank mechanic, a role that traditionally had been held only by men.
Her response was short and direct.
“I’m not a desk-type person. I like getting hands-on. I like getting dirty. So I was like ‘Yeah, I wanna go,’” Brumley reflected.
In the spring of 2014, Brumley was on her way to a military career transition course at the Regional Training Institute in Umatilla, Oregon. “I never thought I would join the National Guard and be a tank mechanic,” Brumley said. “I certainly never thought I’d be the first woman.”