Master Gunner course graduates first female

(Fort Benning, Ga.) Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Saunders, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), was the first female to graduate the Master Gunner common core Course June 27, 2016. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright / MCoE PAO Photographer)

Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Saunders, 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), was the first female to graduate the Master Gunner Common Core Course June 27, 2016. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright / MCoE PAO Photographer)

By Desiree Dillehay, Fort Benning Public Affairs /

The first female noncommissioned officer graduated the Master Gunner Common Core Course June 27 at Patton Hall on Fort Benning.

Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Saunders, a petroleum supply specialist and reservist with the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Des Moines, Iowa, started the Master Gunner Common Core Course May 24.

Saunders said she volunteered to attend the course because she’s worked with weapons a lot in her career and thought it would be a good course.

“I know that the Reserves have to start shooting gunnery in fiscal year 2017, so having this training, having some people trained to help out … is going to help because a lot of sustainment personnel have never shot gunnery before,” she said.

Saunders works full-time for the U.S. Army Reserve and said that this will be just another hat to wear.

“I work in individual training for the (103rd) ESC, so there are a lot of things that happen and this is just going to be one that fits into the collective training side of it.”

The Master Gunner Common Core Course is a four-week course that is conducted in four modules: direct fire and weapons training, ammunition and ballistics, gunnery training management and unit training plan. The course was established in 2015 to train select NCOs to assist unit leaders in the planning and implementation of gunnery training.

This course is going to help the readiness of the Army Reserve’s future force by allowing both males and females to attend, said Saunders.

“There are a lot more females in the Reserves and the sustainment commands. So that will make the pool a lot bigger to pull from.”

“I think there is going to be more females that do come through. This is just the common core of it. It’s the beginning of it. Most of the others (students) are going on to the Bradley or the Abrams or Stryker Master Gunner courses to get their full course. This was just the mounted machine gun part of it,” said Saunders. “So once females do get integrated into those kinds of roles, they will be going to the rigorous training that these guys are going through next.”

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