CAMP HOVEY, South Korea — In a time of trial and difficulties the human brain can overcome anything. This was the case for a soldier who was able to muster patience, perseverance and confidence while she was in a competition that would change the way she was viewed by her peers.
Hard-working, confident and a natural leader have been some of the words used to describe Pvt. Felicia J. Bower, from Shippensburg, Pa., and currently a petroleum supply specialist with Troop D, 4th Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
When she arrived to Troop D in January, Bowers immediately made positive impressions on her superiors. Being handed a .50-caliber machine gun or M2, Bowers demonstrated her raw natural talent in shooting by outperforming her peers at training ranges.
The M2 is an 84-pound, air-cooled, belt fed machine gun that can be fired in single shot or automatic modes. It has a max range of 2,000 meters and an effective range of 1,830 meters. The firing rate can vary from 400 to 600 rounds per minute. This is Bowers’ first choice of weapon.
“I was nervous but excited when I got behind the trigger,” said Bowers. “I loved the feeling of firing this weapon, I loved every minute of it.”
Because of her skills, Bowers volunteered to be a gunner. Being named Top Gun means the soldier is the best and most proficient shooter in the squadron. It’s an honor for a soldier to receive this distinction.
The qualification included acquiring and engaging stationary and moving targets from moving vehicles during both day and night. For most soldiers the pressure of qualification is more than enough. Bowers had the added worry of her father who was ill.
“I remember getting behind the weapon and clearing my mind,” said Bowers. “I was in the right place at the right time and I remember hitting each target.”
Bowers didn’t let any distraction enter her mind, which enabled her to engage and hit each target with just one round.
“She was in the zone,” said Staff Sgt. George W. Leftridge, a truck commander, with the 4th Squadron, 7th U.S. Cav. “She was focused and she just let her training kick in.”
During the qualification, Bowers said she never knew how well she was doing because she didn’t take her eyes of the target. After the final qualification round was complete, the results were in and Bowers received the news that she was the squadron’s Top Gun.
“I was surprised, excited and a little shocked,” said Bowers. “I wasn’t going for Top Gun, I was just having fun and trying to qualify, and not let my crew down.”
Bowers was also surprised to find out she was the first female soldier in her unit to ever get this title.
“The fact that she is a female Top Gun, that’s not a big deal,” said Sgt. 1st Class. Vic Tapong, the distribution platoon sergeant, with 4th Squadron, 7th U.S. Cav. “The fact that she is a private and that it’s her first time firing this weapon, that is what makes this special.”
Although Bowers didn’t initially understand the prestige of earning Top Gun, everyone in her unit did.
“When you’re in a unit with mostly males, women don’t usually get the opportunities to really show what they can do,” said Staff Sgt. Detrice R. Burriss, a section sergeant with Troop D. “This young soldier has shown us with dedication, motivation and confidence you can accomplish anything.”
Bowers received the Army Commendation Medal and a year of bragging rights to be the first and only female Top Gun in the squadron.