Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Cox became the first female Army National Guard Soldier to graduate the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center’s M1 Abrams Master Gunner course in December 2022, earning the title and additional skill identifier of Abrams Master Gunner.
The 53-day course at Fort Benning, Ga., upskills accomplished armor crew members like Cox and hones their proficiency in tank gunnery and maintenance. Cox’s desire to impart knowledge to her home tank crew motivated her to attend the course.
“I really enjoy the fact that you have one crew, and you become a family,” she said. “You have to take care of your track. If you don’t, you or a member of your family could die.”
At the AMG, she and other students became experts in advising commanders at all echelons on tank operations, assisting with the planning, development, execution and evaluation of all combat and individual, crew and collective gunnery training.
“Staff Sgt. Cox was excellent in her navigation of this course,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Camp, an instructor at the ARNG Warrior Training Center. “She had a wealth of tactical knowledge of tank operations from afar. Initially lacking technical knowledge, she was a quick learner, and when the opportunity presented itself, she was the first to volunteer.”
As a newly minted master gunner, Cox is now a subject matter expert in advanced gunnery methodology, turret weapons systems maintenance, and gunnery training management.
“I think that it’s amazing, the amount of knowledge to be able to diagnose exact components that you just wouldn’t be able to do as a normal crew member,” said Cox. Having had the M1 for only 18 months, Cox added that as a master gunner, her proficiency presents the Texas Army National Guard with a new baseline in armor education.
“Being able to impart information from the base level forward so that we can start a program and make sure it goes correctly is exciting, and I’m excited to take all that back to my crew.”
In and outside the tank, Cox’s armor family ties run deep. Her partner and fellow Texas ARNG member, Sgt. 1st Class Josh Simmons, graduated about a month before Cox from a master gunner course for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a lighter armored track vehicle.
“We’re uniquely positioned in that we’re probably the only people who can really be in the same household and completely understand what one another is going through,” said Cox.
The “armor couple” is looking forward to maximizing newfound knowledge from master gunner courses to make the state’s combat arms programs more lethal.
“The Warrior Training Center is such a huge asset, particularly because in the National Guard, we’re not out on tanks 24/7. So, having a class that prepares you and gets you back in that mind frame is such an asset for success,” Cox said.
The Army National Guard’s WTC graduated more than 2,000 students from various courses at Fort Benning and mobile training annexes.
WTC course offerings include Ranger Training Assessment, Master Fitness, Air Assault, Pathfinder and Rappel Master, and support training for events like Best Squad, Best Soldier and NCO competitions.
“WTC is the ARNG’s premier functional training and leader development organization, consisting of trained and disciplined Soldiers that are competent, motivated and professional leaders,” said Lt. Col. Gary Dettloff, WTC battalion commander. “Functional training provided by the WTC supports the federal mission of Large Scale Combat Operations and the state’s mission for domestic response to natural and man-made disasters.”