FORT KNOX, Ky. – Silhouetted by the shadow of a 38,000-pound M978A2 military fuel truck, Army Spc. Tiffany Willand is a long way from home.
Once a city girl from Tacoma, Wash., Willand is now a light-wheeled mechanic assigned to the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division here.
As a mechanic with the 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd IBCT, Willand is one of a dozen soldiers who specialize in servicing, repairing and maintaining more than 400 pieces of rolling equipment ranging from Humvees to generators.
Through hard work and dedication, Willand is helping lead the way for future females aspiring to be mechanics in the Army.
“Most people are surprised when they find out we have a female working as a female mechanic that can hold her own,” said Army Staff Sgt. Timbya Whitted, senior floor mechanic for Company B, 201st BSB. “Willand is one of the best soldiers that I have turning wrenches, and among the best that I have worked with.”
Since arriving to the unit, Willand has earned the respect of her fellow soldiers.
“Specialist Willand knows her job inside and out, and can keep pace with all of the other soldiers,” Whitted said. “She is our battle buddy-in-arms, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
“There is a good chance she might know more about vehicles than me,” said Army Spc. Demetrius Griffin, a fellow light-wheeled mechanic assigned to Willand’s unit.
Although her work ethic has won the support of her battle buddies it wasn’t always easy to come by. After graduating high school, Willand’s career path wasn’t in line with what her family had in mind.
It took a lot of back-and-forth talking, she said, but once everyone understood how she felt about joining the military, they were OK with her decision. Her family just didn’t want her to deploy to a bad place, Willand said.
“When I talk to them now they still worry, but I remind them that someone has to fight for the right of freedom and liberty,” she said.
Like most soldiers, fighting for that freedom means sacrificing much more than just time. In addition to working long hours, Willand has traded in many luxuries like manicures, pedicures and fancy clothes for greased-stained gloves and oily coveralls.
“I enjoy being a female mechanic,” Willand said. “I see it as an honor and privilege to serve alongside my male counterparts even if it means I have to get a little dirty sometimes.”
With the supply of Army vehicles needing serviced in high demand, Willand’s days working underneath warfighting equipment are far from over.
“I plan on making the Army a career, and if I stay a mechanic I want to learn all there is to know about all military vehicles and maybe even go warrant officer,” she said.
Regardless of where she finds herself in the future, Willand plans to inspire as many young females as she can while wearing the Army uniform.
“I want to let young females thinking about joining the Army know -- don’t limit yourself, always push yourself and always prove you can do anything you put your mind to,” Willand said.