For the first time, the Top Gun of a Bradley gunnery was a female

The drawdown in heavy divisions over the years since the end of the Cold War meant there were plenty of Bradley Fighting Vehicles that were surplus. Many were shifted into war reserve stocks, but still others were available for conversion to other roles. One recent conversion is the Engineer Squad Vehicle. Externally almost identical to the regular Infantry or Cavalry vehicles, the internal arrangements have been modified to store the equipment and tools of the Combat Engineer squad in support of the maneuver elements. From the BAE Systems press release:

The Bradley Engineer Squad Vehicle (ESV) is a mobile and survivable combat platform that enables the engineer assets in the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) to maintain the momentum of the fighting force while conducting required offensive, defensive, area presence and unique engineer/sapper operations.

The speed, armor and firepower of the Bradley ESV enhances its survivability while enabling combat engineers to effectively execute their assured mobility, countermobility and urban combat mission requirements when and where required.

The ESV provides the Heavy BCT with a basic combat engineer capability to reduce obstacles and clear rubble in an urban environment. The ESV carries the Engineer Squad and its organic equipment and serves as the Engineer Squad’s mobile and survivable work room, bunker, power tool and fighting platform. ESV will be equipped with a standard complement of combat engineer equipment including:

  • demolition sets;
  • mine detection;
  • marking and clearing equipment; and 
  • an assortment of various sapper tools and devices.

The ESV is also capable of employing unique Engineer Mission Equipment Packages (MEP) for obstacle neutralization. MEPs currently available include a:

  • lightweight mine roller;
  • lightweight blade (surface mine blade or straight push blade);
  • lane marking system; and
  • magnetic signature duplicator.

Additionally, ESV has the growth capability to accommodate and control future MEPs (to include robotic/autonomous mine and/or IED detection/neutralization systems, and mobile mine dispensing systems) as they become available. 

ESV will be the same Bradley variant (A3 or A2 ODS) as the BCT it supports to maximize commonality of the platform while reducing the maintenance footprint and required logistics support.


Further, the Army has recently opened up positions in Brigade Engineer Battalions to women. One of the first is MAJ Chrissy Cook, S-3 of the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion.

Maj. Chrissy Cook made history in the 1st Cavalry Division two weeks ago when she led her Bradley crew to “Top Gun” status during gunnery, the first female Bradley commander to do so.
Cook, an engineer officer and S-3 for 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, led her crew to a top score of 835 with nine of 10 engagements passed to seal “Top Gun” status June 17, as well as a page in the history books as the Army continues to open doors to female service members for service in direct combat roles. As an engineer, Cook’s branch has long been open to males and females.

I guess they’ve changed the Tables a bit, because back in the Stone Age when I was a BC, 835 was certainly nothing to crow about.

12 thoughts on “For the first time, the Top Gun of a Bradley gunnery was a female”

  1. Ok, I’ll be the one to say it.
    Congrats Major for being the “Top Gun”
    For the rest of the Bradley crews, looks like it’s time for some remedial training if 835 is the best score in the Battalion/Brigade.
    As a tanker, an 835 on gunnery would be a “well at least you qualified”

  2. At the risk… This seems to me like a slight variation of the old adage “…what you get with a woman who is in PMS and has a GPS device and that is one angry woman who can find you with 10 digit accuracy”. In the new variation she apparently fires a 25 mm with accuracy as an additional fear factor. Just sayin’

  3. Failed one engagement entirely, and still got Top Gun?? Yeah, I’m thinking they’ve changed up the Tables a wee bit…. and who is her gunner, the Bn MG or just another bubba?

  4. For all the nay-sayers here, just a few facts, as I just left that BCT. The EN BN uses ODS Brands, so it is harder to shoot times designed for A3s. The EN BN has less Bradley gunnery experience as they just expanded from one company to two EN companies, and added a track for the S3 (who had never fired a track before), but most importantly, almost all 36 of (formerly) my Brads scored higher than 835 in my last gunnery in May, so this is most definitely top gun for the EN BN, and not the BCT as a whole. But MAJ Cook is a pretty good officer. Not as good as mine were, but not bad…

    1. Also, almost all 29 of my tanks shot higher. One Q1 and the other 64 tanks and Brads were all Distinguished or Superior.

    2. What specifically is missing from the engineers’ Bradleys that makes it harder? All Bradleys have had a laser range finder installed which was the trickiest part of Bradley gunnery.

      Why isn’t the BN Commander setting the example for his BN’s Bradley crews instead of deferring to his operations officer?

      Publicity stunt anyone?

  5. Esli,
    There was talk of replacing our m113s with brads in the 90s. There was some concern that gunnery time would take away from time for engineer specific training and also the perverse (imo) argument that if engineers got bradleys they’d be treated like another infantry battalion. Any of that come to fruition?

    1. I haven’t seen that because the BN is so new, having just converted from being the Brigade Special Troops Battalion. But training for Bradley gunnery definitely takes a couple months of dedicated training for inexperienced crews. I assume that the engineers have separate training events and have their Bradley crews training to qualify their tracks while the engineer squads conduct their training and EQR separately, just like the infantry with their crews and dismount squads. Now the problem becomes one of cross-training when necessary so Soldiers don’t progress too far on one skill or the other without appropriate professional training on both. The last training requirement is then to put the trained squads in the back of trained Brads and train them together. Incidentally, the EN BN is training on new bridge launchers and new breaching vehicles, so they have a lot of training to accomplish.

    1. I specifically spelled it two words, only some caps, for a reason.

      BTW, “Top Gun” wasn’t some genuine award or anything. Just bragging rights. Though if your crew scored 900 or better, it was an automatic Army Achievement Medal. Which annoyed the dismounts, since they had no equivalent opportunity to earn an easy AAM.

  6. 1. I hope that Top Gun was only for the Engineer Battalion, because….

    2. As for Dismounts…when I was a Company Commander I always made as big of a deal of M-16, SAW, M-60, DRAGON, & M203 qualification as we did for BFV qualification. Had a Top Gun plaque per system in the orderly room as well as a 3 day pass (AAMs were new back then). It reminded all the key word was Infantry not Vehicle.

  7. Great and congratulations!

    I wonder if the Army still requires each Bradley crew member to pass the Bradley Crew Gunnery Skills Test (BCGST) with each skill evaluated to a timed standard? Most of the tasks are technical but several require crew members to do some physically demanding tasks. Clear, remove, disassemble, assemble, and install an M242 25-mm gun required the soldier to carry the 25mm barrel from the ground up to the turret and mount it as well as lift the 40lb receiver from the back ramp into the turret and install it. Tough to do because you have to reach and extend into a pretty tight space requiring upper body strength. Then there was remove and install the M240 machine gun and load unload the 25mm ammo box. All are doable if you have no time standard, they are otherwise pretty challenging to do on a clock, an important standard since one must be able to get your weapon into action and clear it in the heat of battle.

    I notice the latest grading worksheet doesn’t have time limits…

    FWIW, I find it extremely strange that the BN Commander would not qualify on the vehicle/weapon system he’s supposed to occupy and run the battle from not to mention set the example for the rest of his battalion’s Bradley crews. Publicity stunt? It’s also weird that an engineer Battalion doesn’t have a fighting vehicle for the Commander AND the S3. That’s the way all heavy Infantry, Cavalry and Armor battalions are equipped.

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