SHAH WALI KOT-Afghanistan - The first female soldier to shoot a 120mm illumination round from a mortar tube in Afghanistan is from a Female Engagement Team (FET) attached to Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment. Spc. Nicole McFarland shot her first mortar round on the US Army’s 238th birthday.
“I didn’t know what was going on until they made me get up there and hang the round,” said McFarland, “After I heard the round leave the tube, I felt relieved. It was a great birthday present.”
McFarland was not able to properly celebrate her birthday, May 10. Turning 42 years old during a two day mission is not what she expected. The mission was to support the Afghan National Security Force as they patrolled around a village, which they have not entered in four years.
“My mission was to help set up an assembly area and stay the night,” said McFarland, “During the night, my 1st Sergeant told me that he would give me my birthday present back on the COP.” Combat Out Post (COP) Little Blue is the home to Charlie Battery, and Charlie “Carnage” Troop, 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. “Carnage” Troop operates the 120mm mortar tube, which McFarland used for the first time.
“After many classes on how to load and shoot a mortar round, I knew what to do,” said McFarland, “My 1st Sergeant then held a training exercise during the night hours. Everything looks different in the dark, especially trying to hang an illumination round over a mortar tube.”
After a successful training mission, McFarland was greeted with a flash from a camera and a surprise birthday message from 1st Sgt. Erick Figueroa.
“I want to dedicate the round to not only my birthday, but also to my daughter who just graduated high school,” said McFarland, “I’m so proud of her.”
McFarland has three daughters and one son. She joined the US Army three years ago as a transportation specialist driving trucks. She then joined the FET in hopes of making a difference in Afghanistan. This is her second deployment from an earlier tour in Iraq. Before she joined the Army, she owned a snow mobile business as well as owned a gun club.
“I am very happy that 1st Sergeant Figueroa of Charlie Battery allowed me to shoot a mortar round,” said McFarland, “I am also proud to be part of the FET.”