WASHINGTON -- Cicely Verstein didn't plan on breaking any new ground when she enlisted in the Army. But the job she selected at the recruiting station has thrust her into the military spotlight.
At age 21, Verstein will be the first female 91M Bradley Fighting Vehicle System maintainer, one of six positions that in the past were restricted to men but are for the first time hiring women.
Originally from Pennsylvania but now residing in West Virginia, Verstein has been wanting to join the Army for the last five years, but waited until she spent some time in college.
"I wanted to join when I was 16, but my family wasn't behind me," she said. "So I went to college. But I kept looking into [the Army] and found a job that I liked and started the process."
As a system maintainer, Verstein will be repairing engines and other parts, diagnosing system problems and generally making sure the Bradleys are in top shape. The mechanical work appeals to Verstein, who has fixed motors and other machines in the past.
"I've always been interested in working on cars," she said. "It seemed like an interesting job to me and I want to learn more about it."
SOLDIER SAFETY ON YOUR SHOULDERS
The Bradley fighting vehicle entered service for the Army in 1981, about 31 years ago. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Corey Hoff of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard has worked on Bradleys for the last 18 years as a mechanic, including spending 18 months in Iraq.
As a system maintainer who has worked both overseas and on U.S. soil, Hoff stressed the importance of the job in ensuring Soldiers' safety, especially when that responsibility falls on the shoulders of a new recruit.
"Just take pride in everything you do because the troops depend on it," he said. "You need to stay on top of everything; be aware at all times of what's going on with your vehicle."
Verstein is eager to begin training for her new position in spite of her unique standing as the first woman to hold the job. She said she views herself as a strong woman who is capable of pulling her weight in the field, and that she expects that her fellow Soldiers will treat her as such.
"Hopefully they'll know that I'm there to do my job and that's what I want to do, and they'll respect me just like they do each other," Verstein said.
Verstein noted that she did not choose to apply to be an Army system maintainer because she wanted to set a precedent; rather, she simply liked the work.
"I mean, I joined the Army because I found a job that I wanted to do," Verstein said. "I didn't do this for the publicity or anything like that."
The Army is now offering six new Military Occupational Specialty, or MOSs, to women. Among those are Multiple Launch Rocket System crewmember (13M), MLRS Operations fire detection specialist (13P), Field Artillery Firefinder radar operator (13R), M1 Abrams Tank System maintainer (91A), Bradley Fighting Vehicle System maintainer (91M) and artillery mechanic (91P).
Verstein begins basic training in November, and will continue on after that to advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga.
William Garbe contributed reporting.