Female Artillery Surveyors: A New Dimension for Today’s Army National Guard

 

Written by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Published June 7, 2005

   

Spc. Dawn Carlson and Staff Sgt. Kristl Bray listen as Mr. Tom Vogan explains the rules for rounding survey numbers.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Spc. Dawn Carlson and Staff Sgt. Kristl Bray listen as

Mr. Tom Vogan explains the rules for rounding survey numbers.

CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah — As a sign of changing times, two female Soldiers trained as artillery surveyors recently at the Utah National Guard’s 640th Regional Training Institute (RTI).

 

Spc. Dawn Carlson, Indianapolis, Ind., and Staff Sgt. Kristl Bray, Riverton, Utah, prepared for a job typically given to males by going through the first phase of the Surveyor course and will finish the second phase later this year.

   

As a member of the Indiana National Guard, Carlson worked in the 38th Division Artillery’s Intelligence section and wanted to become a surveyor to have the opportunity to go out into the field more often.

 

“I wanted to do this training because I love the field,” she said.  “I joined the Army so that I could play in the mud and the dirt.” 

 

Carlson knows that the field is not all fun and games, but she really enjoys the tactical aspect of being in a survey section that can be miles away from the protection of  howitzers. 

 

In phase one of the course, both Soldiers and their classmates learned basic field artillery survey skills. Sgt. 1st Class Corry Starr, Surveyor course manager, explained what it takes for students like Carlson and Bray to complete their training.

 

“[Students] learn how to accurately measure distances, using an instrument called a SED-ME (uses laser to measure distances within millimeters).” Starr said. “They use a T-16 Theodolite which measures both vertical and horizontal angles, and they learn how to put the data that they just learned into a field recording notebook.”

Spc. Dawn Carlson, Indiana National Guard, takes notes at the Utah National Guard’s 640th RTI, one of the few places that teaches the artillery survey class.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Spc. Dawn Carlson, Indiana National Guard, takes notes

at the Utah National Guard’s 640th RTI, one of the

 few places that teaches the artillery survey class.

 

Trainees also spent time using a handheld terminal unit (HTU).  The HTU is an artillery-specific computer that records survey data, performs all the mathematical computations for determining angles and locations on the earth and communicates with the howitzers. 

 

Like Carlson, Bray, a Utah National Guard supply specialist with the 640th, is also becoming a surveyor to get more time in the field.  She is an avid camper and is anxious to put her newly acquired skills to the test.

 

“I plan on taking a solo backpacking trip into the Uinta Mountains and using the map and honing my surveyor skills,” she said. 

 

For surveyors, accuracy is a crucial component of their work. In fact, it’s very common for surveyors to check their work at least four times to ensure accuracy.

 

“It’s a safety issue in peacetime; it’s an accuracy issue in wartime,” says Starr.

 

Carlson, Bray and the other 70-90 students going through the Survey courses each year benefit from the dedicated cadre of the 640th RTI. Instructors have a vast range of experience in all aspects of field artillery surveying.   

 

According to Starr, one instructor on staff spent 10 years as a chief surveyor both in the active Army and the National Guard. His expertise is in using all of the traditional math and logarithms. Another instructor is well versed in all the new technologies, thus providing a good balance of experience in the old and new approaches to surveying.

 

Starr’s advice to anyone who wants to be a surveyor is simple: “People who are the most successful are intelligent, physically fit and have a passion for doing it right.”

 

And Bray and Carlson are living proof that those qualities—and not your gender—are what matter most in training for and doing the job as an artillery surveyor.

 

 

Staff Sgt. Kristl Bray takes notes during a class on survey techniques at the 640th RTI.

Photo by Sgt. Scott Faddis

Staff Sgt. Kristl Bray takes notes during a class

on survey techniques at the 640th RTI.